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Portrayal of young people by the media

Are young people really the irresponsible, inarticulate pill popping louts many people believe they are? Or has the media not given them a fair go?

Submitted 4/20/2006 By sean36 Views 331301 Comments 15 Updated 5/3/2006

Caption : Youth at Big Day Out
Photographer : Sean Rom

What's the issue

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

  • 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

Examples of negative media spin

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 protest

Why 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:
  • 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.

Barriers young people face

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

Youth Affairs Council of Victoria, In the spotlight—young people and the media,

Discuss Now

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Kietley 04-Dec-2007

Ok Ok so alot of people have a lot of views on this topic, but im not going to pull any punches. Truth is, Yeah the media can Portray young people as irresponsible, inarticulate pill popping louts and maybe that isn't fare. But its not the only thing that the media seem to blow way out of proportion, not that there is no truth to the accusation!
Although they are only portraying a minority of people, really the accusations made about the minority is somewhat true. Lets get with reality guys...seriously we use the excuse that yeah we are young, we wanna go out and party, its our right, lifes to short...and so on, but SERIOUSLY some of the things we get up to, our friends, acquaintances is really quiet harmfull, and the role of the media is to get the facts out there, depict the reality and this is reality.
How many of us go out to clubs on the weekend and see someone who has just taken a pill, perhaps even our friends have consumed some kind of illegal drug. Do our parents really know what we get up to? Maybe the media portrayal isnt really a bad thing, maybe it isn't right on the ball, a bit over the top..but if parents are watching the worse than maybe it will be enough to make them stop and ask questions.
Not only are we talking about drugs here, there are alot of issues that are constantly blown out of proportion by the media and yes again its not fare......but some issues really need to be addressed to society.
But every individual has a choice, a choice to take in what they want to know from what they although the media is telling the story (exaggerated version) it is not all to blame for the information that goes in ones head. EVEN THOUGH we may not be doing it ourselves....We know someone who is...and thats the point. We can influence our friends, family, strangers just as much as the media! So next time your watching the news and you see a group of kids bashing the hell out of an innocent...instead of thinking 'thats not what we are all like,' maybe you should stop and think of that someone you know who is like that!



sg 11-Oct-2007

there are a lot of people around me that have opinions that could challenge adults. it is not strictly people doing annoying things, and to be honest with u all, i've learned more from my generation than from adults, and my own teacher doesn't have much respect for us. only about 2 people at my school fight over sport, and suddenly everyone playing gets into inane lectures about fairness and caring that 8 year olds should understand.



manal 17-Sep-2007

i reckon all young people live in the moment and get judged on there actions and people dont think see the good things that that individual might of done instead everyone likes to jump to conclusions and portray a image of that person withouth even knowing them...if you ask me i find this pretty pathetic



ethicool 07-Sep-2007

as a some what maturing youth : / I think that people often ignore all the great things that young people are doing. We are very different to the generations before us, I mean yeah we party alot, we get married much later, we don't like commitment, we change jobs... BUT we travel, we explore, we question things, we don't believe in taking a stereotypical role, we challenge opinions. W'o all those things changes would not be made. Look at all the rock concerts for causes, all the parties for poverty : ) why is it tht right now is the time when leaders truely believe change CAN happen...



PaulineS 23-Aug-2007

I like to party just as much as the next person and I drink and have a great time but I also know my limits and have to be careful not to impose my idea of fun on anyone else who may not agree... at the same time life isn't all about parties (even though I wish it was) we also have to concentrate our efforts on matters that count...