Memorandum submitted by the Young Researcher
1. ABOUT THE
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. UN COMMITTEE
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))
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
3. ABOUT THE
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. ANALYSIS AND
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.
OUT OF ALL THE STORIES ON YOUNG PEOPLE THAT
THE MEDIA COVERS, WHAT PERCENTAGE OF THESE ARE NEGATIVE?
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
"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. KEY POINTS
5.1 The Young Researcher Network believes
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.
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
Clark, C, Ghosh, A, Green, E, Shariff, N and others (2008) Media
portrayal of young people: impact and influences. London: NCB. Back