Universal Mentors Association

Runners-Up From Our 10th Annual Student Editorial Contest


Some of the most ardent defenders of parental rights argue that teenagers need strict parental regulation because teens are confused and easily corruptible. They’re not entirely wrong. But the process of adolescence — developing abstract thinking and fundamental moral values — isn’t complete unless young people are given the freedom to explore the world on their own terms. Studies have found that adolescent autonomy leads to increased classroom engagement and a higher quality of life. Parental rights policies withhold that independence, preventing us from developing our individuality and worldview at the time when doing so is most critical.

To ensure the safety of our children, we must combat these policies at every turn, from the school board to Congress. But, simultaneously, we must empower our children to become independent. Let them read banned books, openly discuss their identities, and develop individual social lives. Let them discover who they are. Because, if we let the government seize young peoples’ right to self-determination, they will be robbed of their self-esteem, self-love and self-identity. And our young people are our future.

Works Cited

Hess, Amanda. “‘In This House’ Yard Signs, and Their Curious Power.” The New York Times, 29 Oct. 2021.

DiMarco, Bella. “Legislative Tracker: 2023 Parent-Rights Bills in the States.” FutureEd, 29 March 2023.

Karni, Annie. “Divided House Passes G.O.P. Bill on Hot-Button Schools Issues.” The New York Times, 24 Mar. 2023.

Hafen, Christopher A., et al. “The Pivotal Role of Adolescent Autonomy in Secondary School Classrooms.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence, vol. 41, no. 3, 24 Dec. 2011 (pp. 245–255).

Missouri State Senate Bill S.B. 451: “Parents’ Bill of Rights.” Missouri Senate website.

Nota, Laura, et al. “A Multivariate Analysis of the Self-Determination of Adolescents.” Journal of Happiness Studies, vol. 12, no. 2, 21 Feb. 2010, (pp. 245–266)

Utah State Senate S.B. 152 “Social Media Regulation Amendments” (2023). Utah State Legislature website.

Yang, Maya. “Florida Board Approves Expansion of ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Ban to All School Grades.” The Guardian, 19 Apr. 2023.

“Teens and Phone Phobia”
By Madeleine Krieger, age 15, River Dell High School, Oradell, N.J.

Some people fear sharks. Or Snakes. Or heights. My peers and I fear … phone calls.

Talking to an actual human being can be terrifying. Parents make our important calls: to doctors and dentists. Our terror of the telephone makes us just fine with that arrangement. One mom writing in Your Teen magazine shares, “My 18-year-old will do anything to avoid talking on the phone. When she had to return a phone call recently, she freaked out so badly she hung up.”


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