What Are Youth Rights?

Youth rights are the specific things every person has between the ages of 12 and 18 years old, including opportunities, freedoms, rights and responsibilities. They are distinct from the general human rights identified earlier because of the nature of the people addressed being between the ages they are. They are different from children’s rights because they acknowledge the evolving capacities of youth, as well as the evolving nature of the society we all share.


For more than a century, some youth and some of their adult allies have been advocating for youth rights. These rights have generally fallen into three categories:


  1. Provision—Protect young peoples' access to particular things likes food, clothes, shelter, education, etc.
  2. Protection—Make sure that young people are safe from abuses, including physical, mental, and psychological abuse.
  3. Participation—Give young people the opportunity to make, direct, evaluate and critique decisions that affect them throughout society.

Following is a list of the traditional youth rights that people have granted youth before, or that have been advocated for across the last hundred years.


Abuse-free living— All young people have the right to live free from all types of abuse, including emotional, physical and psychological abuse. They should live free from economic, social, cultural, religious and personal exploitation. They have the right to know peace and nonviolence throughout their lives.


Creativity— without excuses, all young people have the freedom to creativity in speech, expression and action. This includes physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional creativity which can be shared without harming another person’s wellbeing or freedom to creavity. Education—Whether through informal or formal avenues, all young people have the right to free and universal education. This education should cover everything essential for democratic participation throughout society.


Employment— all youth everywhere should be free to choose work that fulfills their objectives as young people. Reasonable limits focused on safety, health and wellbeing should be considered and taught to young people rather than mandated without their consent. Youth also have the right to fair pay and benefits for their labor.


Food access— the right to healthy, sustainable and essential food is the right of all young people everywhere in order to ensure their health and wellbeing


Healthcare— the right to healthcare is essential for all youth. This includes mental, phsycal and spiritual health, and should not be limited according to a young person’s income.


Recreation— all young people have the freedom to recreation, whether through informal or formal avenues. Time and physical space should be guaranteed with both structured and unstructured opportunities to relax, have fun and socialize.


Shelter— Youth have the right to safe, secure and sustained shelter, whether with their family of origin or in other situations they find suitable. Shelter should not be provided contingent on adult approval or through manipulation.


Youth rights— Youth do not leave their rights behind at the door to the schoolhouse. As such, in educational environments young people have the distinct freedom and responsibility to exercise their rights, both as participants in democracy and as learners.


Movement— Young people have the right to movement and should not be restricted from it. This means they can walk, bicycle, or otherwise transport them, and should not be restricted from accessing public transportation the same way as other members of society.