Being part of our society

We like to have contact with other people and be part of a group. To feel good about ourselves we often need to talk to others, live and work with others and share part of our lives.

In order for us to do this successfully, society makes various rules and laws, which we have to follow. Society also sets out our rights and responsibilities to help us all get along and live in unity.

Everyone living in Britain has certain rights. For instance, we have the right to:

  • be treated equally and the freedom to go where we like.
  • hold our own political views
  • vote for the government we would choose.

If our choice of government is not elected, we must accept the majority party in parliament.

People often talk about their rights, but it is important to remember that they are accompanied with duties and responsibilities.

  • We have a right to free speech – but a duty not to misinterpret or tell lies about other people
  • We have a right to go where we want – but not to trespass on private property.

Some other duties that society expects from us include serving on a jury, paying taxes and obeying the law.

Many people in Britain believe that the right to vote and to elect a government is one of the most important rights. Voting gives people a say in how things should be done. The laws that are passed by government will affect everyone and can influence many parts of our lives, for example:

  • the way schools are run
  • how much tax we pay
  • how our services work.

Voting can make a real difference and people in Britain have the right to vote when they reach 18 years of age.

Other groups in society may also influence what we do.

  • Some of these groups will be set up to form a vital part of our society such as businesses or the emergency services
  • Others will be set up on a voluntary basis because people in our society feel they are important and have a role to play, such as trades unions or charities.

These groups all play an important part in our society and all have their own rights and responsibilities. The companies and businesses set up to produce goods and services we need, and provide us with employment - they all have duties to fulfil as well.

Can teenagers make a difference?

There are also many ways that young people with awareness and understanding can influence what goes on around them. Teenagers often feel deeply and strongly about issues and concerns and can be the very people who can make a difference to the world we live in. That includes you!

Since the 1960s there has been a growing trend for young people to be involved in decision-making and planning. Although you cannot vote until you are 18, there are many ways that you can make a difference and make your voice heard.

  • Many schools now have a school council, which can be a teenager’s first experience of influencing decisions that will affect others
  • Some young people have taken part in the UK Youth Parliament.

In different areas across the UK, youth parliaments were set up to give young people a voice on any issue that affects them. It gives young people the opportunity to take part in decision-making and be listened to by adults. You can take action in your community on issues that are of concern to you.

In some places where the scheme has worked well, local councils and community groups are working with the youth groups to make sure their opinions and advice are heard.

Some political parties and pressure groups are aware that they will need to attract young people, like yourself, to support them, as you will be an influence in the future.

  • Political parties are groups who want to be elected to parliament
  • Pressure groups are organisations that try to influence those in power. They are often concerned with a specific cause or issue.

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