Even by usual media standards there has been a staggeringly large amount of negative press about young people recently. Susan Rauprich from NCVYS has drafted a response that will be going to the press after close of business today. (You can read the letter by clicking on “Continue reading”)
If you would like to endorse this letter, please email Ellie Rose at NCVYS directly ([email protected] ). You should state your name, position and organisation, and respond by 4 oclock today.
Young people are once again in the media spotlight following the recent controversy over the ban on hooded tops and baseball caps in the Bluewater shopping centre and the call for young offenders to wear uniforms while carrying out community service.
Tabloid, broadsheet and local papers are overly focused on negative stories of young people. Issues such as anti-social behaviour, underage sex, gang violence and bullying are by far the most likely to be singled out by the media. Last year research by Mori found that three in four articles about young people were negative.
The continued reinforcement of stereotypes and the unrelenting use of negative language, such as referring to young people as ‘yobs’, ‘thugs’ and ‘feral gangs’, impact on public opinion and fuel the current climate of fear. Neither the ban on young people wearing hooded tops nor the Home Office plans for young offenders will reduce levels of crime. The recent pronouncements will only serve to further alienate young people.
The National Council of Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS) and our network of over 160 voluntary and community based youth organisations are calling for a more balanced portrayal of young people in the media. In our experience young people are making fantastic contributions to society. They are more likely than previous generations to be involved in varied, cultural pursuits, as a recent study by media agency OMD and Channel 4 has revealed.
The media rarely covers positive images of young people and stories about their achievements. Over several decades our members from YMCA England to the Woodcraft Folk have worked with young people making a positive contribution in their communities. Labelling young people as out of control criminals is counterproductive. It does not support the great work that is being done to help young people overcome their barriers and realise their potential to transform their lives.
It is important that we nurture the culture of respect currently advocated by Prime Minister Tony Blair. One way to do this is by ensuring young people are fairly portrayed in the media. It is necessary that we encourage a two-way dialogue between young people and adults to deal with the issues of anti-social behaviour.