What's the issue
Caption : Youth at Big Day Out
Photographer : Sean Rom
Every young person has had the experience—a shop attendant eying you suspiciously or a bus driver refusing to give you concession rates despite the presence of your student card, concession card and every piece of evidence you could possibly need. Every young person has been the victim of unfair judgment by others. Many claim this is the fault, at least partly, of the media and the way it portrays young people. Arguably, media focus on youth drug addiction, vandalism, unprotected sex, as well as many other ‘negative’ issues, has led some people to view young people in terms of stereotypes and gross generalisations. Some misconceptions about young people
Examples of negative media spin
- Young people take drugs
- Young people steal
- Young people are rude and inarticulate
- Young people don’t contribute to the community
- Young people are lazy
Media coverage of the 2004 student protests against rising HECS fees focussed purely on the few individuals who damaged property or became violent. Lost was the fact that most young people staged a peaceful protest. Also, in most articles, the issue of rising fees was forgotten or only briefly mentioned. This negative focus is clear in the Sydney Morning Herald article Capsicum spray used as students storm Chancellery in fees protestWhy is this a problem?
The media plays an important role in creating public opinion and in turn in creating policy and laws. If media representation of young people is inaccurate, there is a danger that the policies created will not address their needs. Negative media stereotypes can also influence young people themselves—a kind of self fulfilling prophecy. On a broader level, young people can be discriminated against or treated suspiciously because of stereotypes. This is very important; young people should feel embraced by their community, not alienated by it. How can media stereotypes be challenged?
Stereotypes about young people can be challenged by:
Barriers young people face
- young people increasing their participation in the media—get involved in your local community radio station or paper, write letters to the editor, email feedback to TV shows, call in to talk back radio etc
- reducing the amount of attention given to negative, controversial issues concerning young people and increasing the focus given to the achievement of young people and their positive contribution to the community.
The media is an extremely complicated thing. The creation of stories is influenced by a range of factors which varies depending on the media. Things like public opinion, what sells and what doesn’t, and what qualifies as a ‘good’ news story are all things that have to be taken into account. An understanding about how the media operates is important if you want to go about changing it. How do I know this?
Beck, C 2003,‘A voice for erudite youth’, The Age
, December 5,
Kuehn, R & Yarlett, K, ‘Media presentations of youth participation
Thompson, M 2004, ‘Capsicum spray used as students storm Chancellery in fees protest, Sydney Morning Herald
,April 1 http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/03/31/10805445...
Youth Affairs Council of Victoria, In the spotlight—young people and the media