Too many people grow up. That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up. They forget. They don’t remember what it’s like to be 12 years old. They patronize, they treat children as inferiors. — Walt Disney
There is no universal agreement on who youth are. Some people say that youth is more a state of mind than a time of life, like former United States Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who famously said, “This world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease.”
However, many government agencies, nonprofit programs and media outlets define youth as a distinct period of time in life and name ages for when it begins and when it ends. In some instances, youth begins at 8 years old; in others, it starts at 16. The same ambiguity exists when naming when youth ends, as some it is happens at 18, 21 or 25 years old.
Legal systems around the world skirt the issue by using terms like adolescent, juvenile and teenager to describe this age range. Sometimes, this is to provide a distinct boundary for when people can begin voting or serving in a military; other times, it is to allow a person to be executed or taken from their families. The age ranges of youth are generally defined in law to meet political objectives, rather than for the genuine wellbeing of young people or society at large.
The Freechild Institute defines youth as anyone between the ages of 12 and 18 years old. Anytime we refer to children, we are talking about anyone 11 years old and younger. When we use the phrase young people, we are including all people under the age of 18.
Freechild Institute Youth Rights Toolkit
- What Are Rights?
- Who Are Youth?
- What Are Youth Rights?
- Traditional Youth Rights
- Nontraditional Youth Rights Issues
- The Future of Youth Rights
- Youth Rights Library
- Youth Rights Resources
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