Children's Rights - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by the Young Researcher Network


  1.1  The National Youth Agency's Young Researcher Network is a network of 16 partner organisations including the National Children's Bureau (NCB) that support and encourage young people's active participation in youth led research to facilitate their voice by influencing policy and practice.


  2.1  n its most recent set of Concluding Observations, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child noted its concerns about ways in which the UK may be failing to ensure children's rights to non-discrimination. For the first time, the Committee recommended that the State party ensure full protection against discrimination on any grounds, including by:

    "taking urgent measures to address the intolerance and inappropriate characterisation of children, especially adolescents, within the society, including the media" (para 25(a))[610]

      2.2  Members of the Young Researcher Network undertook a survey of their peers to find out how young people actually feel about the way they are being portrayed by the British media.[611]


      3.1  This research was led and carried out by a core group of four young researchers aged 15-18, supported by NCB's Research Department and NYA's Young Researcher Network. The young researchers are all members of Young NCB and they received help with their planning and dissemination strategy from a group of seven other Young NCB members.

    3.2  The young researchers were concerned about the negative portrayal of young people in the British media, and how this impacts on young people's lives. Their research explored these issues through a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods including: focus groups with young people; telephone interviews with journalists; and an online survey of young people. They also monitored media coverage of young people for a two week period; they focused on stories that appeared on national television and in some national and local newspapers.


      4.1  To analyse the information that they gathered, they developed codes and used these to extract themes from the data. These are the key themes that were identified.

    4.2  Media content

      4.2.1  The evidence gathered from the research indicates that the media produces both positive and negative stories about young people. There was a difference between local/regional and national media, in that the local/regional media tended to cover more positive stories about young people. Overall though, the media as a whole tends to report more negative stories. The data displayed in Table 1 below is taken from the young people's survey and shows what percentage of stories they felt were negative.

    Table 1


      4.2.2  The data also showed that young people feel that media stories are not representative, as they tend to focus on minorities of the youth population: either violent young people engaged in criminal activity, or extremely gifted and talented young people, ie young athletes or high academic achievers.

4.3  Barriers experienced by journalists

  4.3.1  The research found that journalists do not feel that all young people are bad. They felt that frequent negative reporting by the media is likely to make young people feel negative about themselves, alienated and angry. However, the journalists they interviewed talked about the pressures that they face to cover negative stories, that often portray young people in a bad light. The media needs to sell itself to the public, and it feels that this is the type of news that the public wants to hear about. As some of the journalists who were interviewed explained:

    "If it's bad news its news worthy"

    "Bad news sells"

4.4  Young people's perceptions of "self"

  4.4.1  The young people who took part in the research felt that the way in which the media portrays them and their peers, can have an impact on the way they see themselves.

Some of the young people felt that negative images and stories can cause stereotyping, as older people feel that all young people are part of gangs and are badly behaved. Some felt that these negative stereotypes were impacting on their daily lives: affecting how they dressed or where they could go with their friends. They often felt that older people were intimidated by them, and would cross over the street to avoid walking past them. Many of these young people felt that the media and the general public were "tarring them with the same brush".

  4.4.2  Evidence from the research also indicated that some young people feel that negative reporting in the media can impact on their self-welfare. After reading or seeing negative coverage, they often felt intimidated and scared of young people they didn't know. Some respondents described how they had been harassed by the police despite doing nothing wrong, and felt that negative media coverage had led the police to suspect them.

  4.4.3  Other young people the young researchers spoke to were angry about the media's obsession with young people who misbehaved. They felt that behaving badly was often the only way to get any attention.

  4.5  The young people who took part in the research recognised the important role the media has in informing people of what is going on, and that the public should be informed when bad things happen. However, they were critical of sensational reporting and felt that there should be some more positive news stories about young people to create a balance.


  5.1  The Young Researcher Network believes that:

    —  there should be a balance of negative and positive stories;

    —  young people should be given a voice to put across their views on this issue;

    —  negative, sensational reporting can have a negative affect on young people's lives; and

    —  negative stories have the potential to be used for education and greater understanding of the problems that some young people face.

February 2009

610   United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (Oct 2008) Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under Article 44 of the Convention. Concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the child: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Back

611   Clark, C, Ghosh, A, Green, E, Shariff, N and others (2008) Media portrayal of young people: impact and influences. London: NCB. Back

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