Children in the Media

Today I’ll discuss the representation of children in the media and the confusion, misunderstandings and profoundly worrying stereotyping that occurs which has a much greater impact than many┬ápeople understand. The International Federation of Journalists stated that the media’s portrayal of children perpetuates a collection of myths.

1) Families in developing countries with children living in poverty and as victims of war or natural disasters lose their individuality and humanity. They are often portrayed as helpless sufferers unable to act, think or speak for themselves.

2) Children’s confidentiality is not always respected.

3) Stereotyping is common. For example ‘starving children in Africa’ ‘irresponsible teenagers’ ‘young hooligans’ and even in extreme cases where conflict is endemic, ‘collateral damage’.

4) Coverage of children’s issues can become sensational while ignoring the broad number of issues that confront children every day.

5) Media reports about children are often one off stories with little or no analysis or follow up.

How the media actually portrays children greatly influences how society makes decisions on their behalf and significantly shapes adults’ behaviour towards children.

As I’ve said before many times, the national media just focusses on the dramatic– involving child abuse, crime or children as victims, whereas local media tends to be softer and focussed on achievement and day to day activity. The broader issues of children’s rights and the voice of the child themselves is often seen as not newsworthy.

Children’s Express, an organisation that involves children and young people in media production, monitored national newspaper outlook for one week and┬áthe researchers labeled ‘seven deadly steriotypes’

  • “kids as victims” – 31.5%
  • “cute kids” with gratuitous images – 26.7%little devils, ie children being demonised – 10.8%
  • kids are brilliant, ie exceptional children – 9.7%
  • kids as accessories, ie the property of parents – 8.4%
  • kids these days, ie adults’ nostalgia – 7.5%!
  • little angels who can do no wrong – 5.4%

All in all, Children’s Express are determined to promote the voice of the child and show that they are useful and significant members of the community, even at a young age. The promotion of children’s own views, thoughts and aspirations mixed with a true reflection of their daily lives would be much more rooted in reality.

Finally, getting young people involved in understanding and using all forms of media for more than just networking or superficial exchanges, if done properly, can bring a sense of responsibility and possibly combat some of the darker side of social media such a cyber bullying.


Thanks to the International Federation of Journalists and Childrens Express for much of the detail in todays blog.

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