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For today’s teens, a politics website of their own

They’re more engaged in politics than Generation X was – and are looking for ways to voice their views.

By Staff writer / September 11, 2009

High school student Connor Toohill of San Diego launched NextGenJournal.com with his friends and spent about four hours a day this summer running his opinion-centered site.

Fred Greaves/Special to The Christian Science Monitor

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Connor Toohill and his friends get so stirred up about public issues that they draw fellow airplane passengers into debates and informal polls on the way home from Model United Nations conferences.

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It's a side of teenagers that many adults don't see, they say, much less turn to for input during lofty discussions about how education, healthcare, and government deficits will affect the "next generation."

But now they've launched a website to give voice to their own up-and-coming cohort. Since July 4, NextGenJournal.com has been publishing opinion pieces and interactive discussions by teens and 20-somethings, with topics ranging from domestic and global politics to sports and culture.

"We didn't have a forum so we decided to create it," says Connor, now a senior at Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego. The site welcomes views from all sides of the political spectrum. "We're not letting a certain ideology dictate what we post," he says.

The site is perhaps another indicator that today's youths – coming of age doing public service projects and flexing their muscle in the presidential election – expect to make a difference in their world.

"Young people ... have found a way to communicate what they care about through technology, through social networks, through text-messaging ... and to pressure each other and encourage each other to care about things," says Erica Anderson, a young freelance journalist who covered election news for MTV and whose own website, Erica-America.com, fits into the trend. NextGenJournal and other youth-focused sites, she says, are "the beginning of something very huge."

In addition to countering those who may think today's young adults are apathetic or ignorant, NextGenJournal strives to create a space for civil and open-minded exchange.

"From what I've found, quads of high schools and [college] campuses are not good places for political discussion, because you kind of end up just getting into arguments and name-calling," says Thomas Grant, editor of the site's business and technology section and a new student at Notre Dame.

Mr. Grant, a libertarian, has had first-hand experience with passions building up on both sides of a debate. "Considering that our generation is eventually going to be the leaders in America ... we have to learn to cool our tempers a little bit and have open discussion without hostility," he says.

A study of college students in 2007 found among this millennial generation much more interest in political exchange and engagement than Generation-X students had in the early 1990s. But it also noted that many were turned off by the polarized atmosphere they often saw around politics. Students also reported feeling overwhelmed by the quantity of news and opinion sources, and said they didn't trust many of them.