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This is something I run into sometimes, as I'm 15 years old currently and a moderator on an online community. Sometimes, people will doubt my abilities, especially online, when they become aware of my age (although people generally seem to think that I'm older, based on my writing style).

It goes something like this:

Me: *mentions something about doing something IRL*
Other person: Wait, how old are you? Isn't that like for kids?
Me: Well... I am fifteen.
Other person: Wait, really? Are you sure that you can do this? I'm not sure if I trust a teenager to be responsible enough for this.

(this conversation is entirely fictional, but based on real conversations I have had)

I have some access to PII; the ability to suspend/delete accounts; edit people's profiles; and stuff like that (which I use only as needed ;)).

It's not that they doubt that I'll mess up any one thing in particular; just a general 'you're kinda young for this kind of thing'.

I'm more concerned about this type of conversation with more active, experienced users; but I'd also like to be able to talk to a newer user who hasn't had the time to get to know me yet as well.

So, while I hope that my actions will speak for themselves, I'm also looking for a way to communicate my response to this. How do I effectively get people to look past my age when considering my abilities, if they know how old I am? How do I convince them that my exact age isn't what matters, but the level of maturity that I display?

How do I get them to trust my abilities despite my age?

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    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. – Tinkeringbell Jan 23 '18 at 14:21
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First I question why you need everyone to trust your abilities. Some random JoeSchmo from chat's opinion hasn't got much bearing on what you can actually do, so convincing them is probably not necessary. It seems to me that what you want is to end this conversation of them questioning your abilities. So I suggest something like:

I've been just fine so far and $authority seems to think so, too. I don't think my age is a problem here.

This has the advantage of:

  • Making it clear without being rude that you don't want to keep talking
  • Referencing a point of authority (Yes I know argument from authority is a fallacy usually but this isn't a classical debate or argument)
  • Giving the other person a graceful out (and a graceful way to drop the topic)

Now, if for some reason you really want to convince someone in their heart of hearts that you are capable and they should see it that way, that's going to be complicated. You could:

  • Point to situations you've handled properly in the past (bit difficult with the discreet nature of moderation)
  • Re-direct the question and ask them how old they thought you were before and why the perception of your maturity shifted just now?
  • Point to examples of others with similar age in the same position.

All in all, you won't convince everyone, but that's ok.

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    yeah, something like "I've been a moderator for $time now and my fellow moderators are quite happy with my work" might also help. – Cronax Jan 23 '18 at 11:35
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    Unless all the moderators are 15. – Astralbee Jan 23 '18 at 11:36
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    @Astralbee - Then again, if all moderators are 15, then presumably $authority knows that, and finds people of that age in general a good fit for the role. Argument may be different, but still works (IMO). – RDFozz Jan 23 '18 at 22:33
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    the first half of the response is excellent but the second half sounds defensive. – baldPrussian Jan 24 '18 at 16:54
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"If you have specific issues with how I perform this role, you are welcome to talk to me or authority about it privately. Otherwise, this is not the appropriate place to question my position."

Be direct and tell them that what they are doing is not appropriate. You were selected to take this role for a reason, and those reasons are not for public debate (this is no different than being questioned in your workplace).

You do not want to ask for an opportunity to prove yourself, or lower yourself to any position where you are trying to show you are capable. If you were not capable, you would not have been selected in the first place. Beyond this, you did not choose to take you on - that is your employer's responsibility - you do not have to answer to others on their behalf.

This situation happens in work as much as situations like yours. The key is to be clear that you are in this role, it is not a debate to be had, and that while you will take on specific feedback if they have any - that needs to be done through an appropriate channel.

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    I believe this is the best answer. all the other ones give the doubter an opening and can at some point actually make it hard for OP to keep defending themself. – Brian H. Jan 24 '18 at 10:18
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I must disagree with the answers posed here so far. I wouldn't try to persuade them with direct arguments at all. At best, you will come off as cocky (by giving yourself a great self-assessment) or needy. It also raises the stakes for you. It puts you in the unfortunate position of having your validity become questionable if you ever do make an error in judgement.

Instead, I would deflect the concerns, and project a simple sense of stewardship and responsibility: "It was really very flattering of {the community/the admin/whoever} to select me, particularly given how young I am. But it's very motivating, because I want to make sure I'm worthy of their confidence in me. That's why I work so hard at this. I care a lot about this community, and I hope it shows."

This puts you in a very strong position; you are pointing to the positive judgment of others about your abilities without heaping praise upon yourself, and you aren't claiming to be better than anyone else. You leave yourself room to apologize and learn from mistakes that you make in the future without casting into doubt your overall value, and the answer itself projects a sense of seriousness and responsibility.

6

I've been a moderator on an online forum as well in my teen years, it's really hard to convince people that you're more mature than your age however you don't need them to trust you completely.

Since you mentioned (I'll write down about access to PII)

The ability to suspend/delete accounts, edit people's profiles and stuff like that

In practice all of those actions an admin could reverse (expect maybe deletion though it should be also reversible), you should mention that, for example

All of the actions I take are reversible, if I misbehave an admin would handle it, since I'm still a moderator that means I'm doing a good job and I don't intend to change that, as you get to know me you can decide whether I'm mature or not.

You're basically telling them

  • You don't need to completely trust me blindly
  • I'm competent in my job

And the last part of the sentence "as you get to know me you can decide whether I'm mature or not." is there because it shows that you know that trust needs to be earned through time which is also a sign of maturity.

About access to PII I don't know how to address it because sharing (some) PII information is illegal and punishable by the law, though I don't think you need to address this specifically.

  • Deletion of users is like deletion of posts on Stack Exchange, apart from PII-wiping. (Except sometimes, but that's not too relevant here.) – wizzwizz4 Jan 23 '18 at 17:49
6

This is a losing battle, and it's not worth your time to fight.

The people who are giving you a hard time for being 15 already have their minds made up about what 15 year-olds are like and what they can handle. Their preconceptions may be generally right with you being an outlier, or they could be wildly inaccurate. In any case, you're not going to change their long-held beliefs no matter how eloquent you are.

That's not your fault in any way; it's just how it works, especially on the internet.

So what do you do instead?

You're on the right track with this:

How do I convince them that my exact age isn't what matters, but the level of maturity that I display?

You've already demonstrated your maturity to them - they assume you're older than you are. You're right that your age doesn't matter, so don't let it even come up. You have several options when the subject of your age comes up:

1. Do not engage
If someone asks old you are, ignore the question. Act as though it was not asked. If you're in a thread with multiple people, respond to someone else. If the age-asker said multiple things, respond to the other parts of their message. By not acknowledging the question, you take a lot of their power away. If they keep harping on it, they begin to look like the immature one who is fixated on some irrelevant factor about you. The conversation stops being them telling you to prove yourself, and starts becoming them begging you to let them in on your personal life.

This is your best option, but it's the hardest. As a moderator, you know better than most that people on the internet can get under your skin, and they'll go out of their way to get a rise out of you.

2. Deflect
Have you ever seen someone ask a politician a difficult question? The politician will respond, but you might notice that they answer a different question than what was asked. If you don't like a question, answer a different one. It's important that your response is still on-topic, though. Changing the topic would make it look like you're on the defensive, which suggests you have something to hide.

To borrow your example:

Me: mentions something about doing something IRL
Other person: Wait, how old are you? Isn't that like for kids?
Me: Ah well, we all have our guilty pleasures from our childhood don't we?

Hopefully they give up on their age question. If not, you'll have to move to another option, since deflecting too often makes you look defensive.

3. Dismiss
If you absolutely have to respond to a question about your age, acknowledge the question and indicate that it's not a question you're open to discuss. Here are some possible phrases:

That's not relevant.
The administrators vetted me before I became a mod. Here is how you can contact them if you have concerns.
I don't disclose identifying information online.

The trouble here is that it gives them an opportunity to press further. Be careful not to phrase your dismissal as a question ("How is my age relevant?"), as that invites further questions. If your dismissal doesn't work, follow with more dismissal ("I've already responded to that question.") or Do Not Engage.

Conclusion

Your goal is to never legitimize this discussion. They asked something off-topic, but inoffensive so ignore it if possible. Never provide evidence to justify your position. Never give them a number to work with. Provide contact information for a person to escalate to if they have a legitimate issue. Give your supervisor a heads up that this is happening, and that you'd prefer not to disclose your age.

  • Hmmm.... This is certainly some interesting and useful advice, but it doesn't really answer my question, which is about after they already know my age. – Arwen Undómiel Jan 25 '18 at 0:22
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    @ArwenUndómiel By the time I answered, there had been many answers from that perspective. My answer is intended to help avoid this situation in the future. – Carl Kevinson Jan 25 '18 at 1:35
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Some people achieve amazing things while still in their teens, and some teenagers do have knowledge beyond their years. However it just isn't possible to claim the same experience as an older person because experience is acquired over time, and as yet nobody has been able to cheat the linear nature of time. There are no short-cuts to being old.

I accept this can be frustrating if you are young and knowledgeable. For example, some teens have been fortunate enough to drive a vehicle around their family's private land years before they would legally be allowed to drive on a road. Consequently by the time they are old enough to drive they are way more experienced than most newly approved drivers, but they still have to go through the same process of gaining a license as everybody else.

Weirdly, other types of experience are measured in hours, such as flying time for pilots. But when it comes to applying for a job someone who has done a job for 10 years has 10 years experience, end of.

The only way you can get someone to trust in your abilities is to demonstrate that ability, which I get can be frustrating if you believe you can do something but an adult doesn't accept that.

My advice would be not to argue that you can do a task. This does not come across as mature. My 9 year old tells me all the time that she can do things by herself "now I'm a grown up" (as a 15 year old you probably find the notion that a 9 year old is "grown up" funny. When you're 21 you may well find it amusing when 15 year-olds claim the same).

What you should do is ask for an opportunity to demonstrate your ability. Adults in authority give children responsibility in stages. Humbly accept part of a task, do it well, and then see if they will trust you with the rest.

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    While all this is basically true, the question is not about interacting with adults in authority, in fact the OP seems to have already been entrusted with some formal authority inside the community. – Jirka Hanika Jan 23 '18 at 12:43
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    This answer confuses "years you have done something" with "things you have learned in your years of doing something". There are absolutely people with 10 years of experience who learned nothing in that time. – Erik Jan 23 '18 at 12:54
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    @Erik - I don't feel confused at all. I agree with you that some people have spent 10 years bluffing their way through a role and have no tangible knowledge. Employ someone like that and you will soon discover the truth. But an employer would be taking a blind chance on someone with no experience. You would need to negotiate an opportunity to demonstrate your skill, not argue that you have the experience. – Astralbee Jan 23 '18 at 13:20
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    I don't think this answers the question as asked. The OP already has been granted the authority, however other people are challenging it based on nothing more than age. That's a different scenario. – Tim B Jan 23 '18 at 14:52
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    @Astralbee Only the person who granted the authority can take it away. As I understand the question the problem is not support from those who granted the authority. The problem is the average user not respecting that authority once their age is discovered. (Incidentally we have no evidence that the OP is a he and their profile is a female character from Lord of the Rings so I've been avoiding gendered terms) – Tim B Jan 24 '18 at 12:09
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Fight them back with evidences and providing what you actually did; put your portfolio in front of them:

  • Other person Wait, really? Are you sure that you can do this? I'm not sure if I trust a teenager to be responsible enough for this.

  • You Well, I did [achievement], [achievement], [achievement] and [achievement], everything is still working fine, [authority/ies] is/are happy with that and nothing exploded so far. What do you think?

(isn't a resumé/curriculum vitae something you'd normally do when you want to be hired at a company?)

This way you put them in the position of questioning facts rather than questioning your age. And questioning facts is waaay harder. ;)

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    This is likely to be counter-productive. Most people don't care about facts unless they confirm their existing beliefs, and if they're already ageist are more likely to just think "the snotty brat is showing off" or "look how insecure they are having to brag". Much better just to stay calm, shut down the discussion, and refuse to engage as per Magisch's answer. – Tim B Jan 23 '18 at 14:50
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    Your "shut down the discussion" does not relaly comply with the question author's last request "How do I get them to trust my abilities despite my age?". He's asking a way for the interlocutor to go beyond his age and you suggest to cut the interlocutor out. If the question author states his own facts, he's attempting to give one more DOCUMENTED chance to the interlocutor. Whether the interlocutor takes it or blindly turns it down is all up to his/her maturity. – Markino Jan 23 '18 at 15:38
  • @Markino Given the name, I assume that he is not the appropriate pronoun. – TRiG Jan 23 '18 at 17:57
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Many people have preconceived notions about age versus maturity and it is definitely a challenge to change those. However, if you are put into a position of authority such as what you have described then you have already demonstrated the requisite level of maturity for that position to at least someone in leadership.

In my past I had frequently dealt with this issue, although most of the time it was in person instead of online. In the 8086-80386 era as a child I had started my first business repairing computers, at times at the board level (desoldering and replacing RAM chips, etc.). Not many people trusted me but those who did paid me very well for the services, and I wound up being hired as an independent contractor to set up a local college computer lab. At age 17 I started teaching CPR, first aid, and lifeguarding courses as well as working as an emergency medical technician, and at age 18 I started training instructors in CPR, first aid, and lifeguarding. For teaching, I wound up growing as much facial hair as I could in order to appear older than my chronological age. For the most part nobody asked my age when I was teaching or working on the ambulance.

However, in all cases the primary way I had used to convince people that I had the maturity to do what I had been entrusted to do by virtue of my certifications and licenses was my behavior. Again, this was primarily in-person contact, and it is a lot easier to demonstrate maturity in-person compared to purely online interaction, but you have already demonstrated the requisite skills to persons in leadership, so you already have the skills to tackle this problem. There are many ways to address your age with someone who is questioning you about it, but if you are forced to do this you are already in a position of relative weakness as you are likely fighting against their own ideas of what they were like when they were your age.

What I would recommend is if you are asked your age, as others have stated, first inquire of the person questioning you what they believe your age is. When they guess higher than your actual age it puts you in a stronger position in that discussion as they have directly shown that they feel you are more mature than the average person your age.

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You really won't convince someone online with preconceived notions of how mature a teenager is by arguing with them, all you can really do is convince them of your security and composure. Don't let their incredulity cause problems, and with time they'll see your maturity.

"wait, really, are you sure you can do this"

"Yes, I am sure"

While not a complete answer, to extend on the answer to a question posted a while back about responding to people questioning a relationship with an age difference, the general solution to people being incredulous about your circumstances is to not express the need to explain yourself.

Simply saying yes or no to the question at hand, and refusing to entertain their suggested explanations as to why they your circumstances make a difference, tends to defuse their incredulity with your confidence.

"I'm not sure if I trust a teenager to be responsible enough for this."

"I'm perfectly responsible with my capabilities, thank you.

If they push the argument, IRL, I would suggest taking it to another authority, but online, just stop the conversation, make your statements, and leave. If they keep going, ban them for harassment like you would if they were harassing anyone else.

protected by A J Jan 24 '18 at 13:16

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