Age of Uncertainty
 As the campaign for youth suffrage gains momentum, the route to adulthood grows longer. Welcome to the age(s) of uncertainty, where selfish teens turn slowly into suspicious elders. It's the all new generation game, but will anyone come out a winner?
UK X-Factor candidate, Ella Henderson, is old enough to take part in a life-changing talent show and potentially make millions for music moguls. Yet she isn't old enough to elect the politicians who decide how much tax she should pay. If she wasn't a singer, she might join the armed forces and put her life on the line. At sweet sixteen life offers her many choices, but voting is not one of them.

In the UK, there are 1.5 million sixteen and seventeen year olds who are denied the vote. These same people can leave school and start work, become a company director, pay tax, get married, enjoy sexual relationships, and give consent for medical treatment.
The issue has entered the spotlight as a result of a deal on Scottish independence signed by the First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond and the Prime Minister David Cameron. The deal allows under 18s to vote for the first time, but only on the single question the referendum will put. Yet it could mark a turning-point and lead to permanent change. The question is, who wants it?
Not many politicians it seems. A reduction of voting age to sixteen was put before the House of Commons in 1999 but was heavily defeated. A 2004 consultation by the Electoral Commission also concluded that it remain at 18. The UK voting age was last reduced -- to eighteen -- in 1970 up to which point voters had to be twenty-one.
Eighteen remains the most common voting age globally. The vote is at sixteen in the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Austria, Nicaragua, Brazil and Ecuador, while other countries offer partial rights, for example, employed Slovenians vote at sixteen.
At a time when politicians lament the lack of engagement particularly amongst the young people, and when the reputation of politics has never been so low, reducing the voting age may be a way to refresh democracy. The alternative would be to continue orientating politics towards older voters, and both disenfranching and disillusioning the young.
This is the opinion of The Co-operative who support the 'Votes at 16' campaign and have backed a television documentary (see trailer). The think tank Demos has a report called New Frontier which reports on demographic changes that favour the grey vote. 'There are always arguments against electoral change.  However this group is politically aware, mature and has opinions that need to be voiced given that in twenty years time half of Europes's population will be over fifty'.
What do students make of the calls for reform? Elliot (21) would give 16-year-olds the vote but worries how  independent they would be in expressing it. 'My decisions are still influenced by my parents and friends' he admits. Peter (31) is concerned with the lack of life-experience even though he is also broadly in favour of reform. '16 year-olds should have influence on their local area' he says, but thinks many might not want the responsibility.
Bettina (28) thinks back to when she was 16 and admits to not having an interest in politics at the time. However, if she had to live that age again 'and if I was working, and had to pay tax, I definately would want to vote'.
Lauren (21) says people are overly concerned with age brackets and has felt the sting of condescending remarks when she was younger. 'People think there is a direct link between intelligence and age,' she says. Both Lauren and Melina (19) point out that they been positively influenced by older siblings and friends. 'Having older siblings has made me more aware of life issues,' Melina says. 'When I was 16, I felt mature enough to vote'.
Gabriele (19) is also sure the young would take voting seriously. 'A lot of young people are interested in history, they watch documentary films, and they're able to consider issues fully'. Olga (21) goes further stating that giving youth the vote would sweep a new broom through more than just politics. 'Society might change for the better' she says, and adds that education in political matters should begin very young.
Yet young people are up against a media-amplified view of adolescent angst, teenage pregnancy and hoodies. It is, of all things ,the X-Factor that worries some commentators about the kind of democracy that a reduction in the age of voting will let loose. 'Don't let 16-year-olds vote, they'll only pick Jedward!' says a Daily Mail headline. Young people aren't smart enough to understand issues, the paper implies, panicing that 'the people who voted for Jedward will definitely vote for Boris' (Johnson, the London mayor).
Ironically, the same paper worries whether voting on the X-Factor is fair.
In the book Act Your Age! A Cultural Construction of Adolescence, author Nacy Lesko addresses some of what she calls the 'confident characterizations' of the young as miserable, hormone-crazed, pop-culture-dupes and traces attitudes towards them to specific historic orgins such as the Boer War. The media-amplified view of youth was a convenience during the early days of the teenager in making sense of the 'generation gap' with its symbollic resistance and consumer-power. But if youth was a premium, everyone wanted to retain it. The baby boomers really never let go of these privileges. And the young want to cling onto it forever!
The myth of Generation Me comes on the back of successive generations of misunderstanding, the subjects of discursive panics, amplified by lurid tabloid headlines. The accusation that the young belong to Generation Me implies that things are far worse than teddy boys with quiffed up assaults on working class masculinity or punks parading with swastikas. Today, young people don't just dress different, they are self-centred, poor at relationships and defer responsibility rather than grasp it.
Yet the data doesn't support these impressions.  A Trzesniewski and Donnellan study (1) says that high-school seniors of 2006 are basically no different from those in 1976 on variables ranging from self-esteem to anti-social behaviour. Indeed, they argue that there is astonishly little evidence to support any of the gripes againts the young. So why do these gripes persist?
According to psychologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, of Clark University Worcester Massachusetts, the answer is that there is a difference in environment: a new life stage between adolescence and adulthood that effects both the expectations and perceptions of twenty-somethings.
'The period beyond high school really has changed dramatically over this time. Instead of entering adult roles of marriage, parenthood, and stable work shortly after high school, as most people did in 1976, today most wait until at least their late 20s to make these transitions'.
Arnett says there are four principle reasons why people grumble about the young. Because the young enter adulthood later, this is interpreted as selfish. The young are seen as slackers who don't want jobs. People misunderstand the exploration of identity as suffering, and the high hopes of the young are seen as illusions of grandeur.
Added in to the mix is the de-aging culture surrounding them. Frank Furedi of the University of Kent blames late entry into adulthood on the lack of affirmation it is given culurally.
'The attributes of adulthood are no longer seen as a status symbol because adults try to escape from their own adulthood and become kids' he says. 'All culture is youth culture'.
And while the adults are playing at being kids, kids are increasingly suspicious of adult motives.
'Dramatic escalation of child-protection measures has succeeded in poisoning the relationship between the generations' says Furedi. Adults who show an interest in helping the young are now viewed with suspicion, he says.  The result is a further widening in the gulf between child and adult.
In the age of the kidult, voting reform seems only fair. The kidult has stolen the signifiers of youth, spent all the money on toys and left the young with a debt but without a voice. Ella Henderson has one helluva voice. It's right that she gets the power to express it. 
Trailer for documentary on the voting age
Votes at 16 is an organisation campaigning to give young people voting rights READ ON
 Nancy Lesko, Act Your Age!: A Cultural Construction of Adolescence
Oh, grow up! [DOWNLOAD] Jeffrey Jensen Arnett on generational grumbling and the new life stage of adulthood READ ON 
The young have been infantilised by baby boomers: Frank Furedi in debate 
 Act your age? With youth stretched, what does that mean anymore? READ ON
Adult-phobic Children: Robert Alison on why children just don't trust grown-ups READ ON
(1) Trzesniewski and Donnellan, 2010, Rethinking Generation Me: A Study of Cohort Effects from 1976 - 2006