Last month we reported that negative stereotypes of young people in the media were harming their job prospects. Young people rarely have a voice in newspapers, magazines, or TV, but when they do, such depictions broadly fit into the following, grossly sensationalised and extreme, categories:
1. The Annoyance
‘Why do young people gravitate towards such ‘annoying’ activities? They are always loud – like skateboarding – or public – like hanging around outside. If only they would sit indoors and be quiet.’
2. The binge drinker or drug addict
‘Young people drinking moderately or being vaguely sensible about their life choices? Pah! As if. All of them drink way too much, have no boundaries, and want to flitter all of their parent’s hard-earned wages away on class A drugs.’
3. The drain on society
‘The reason behind the huge youth unemployment figures is simple: young people can’t be bothered. They are lazy and aren’t applying for the millions of jobs out there. If they would just try as hard as everyone else, there wouldn’t be a problem!’
4. The entrepreneurial go-getter
‘Young people being proactive and making their own opportunities? We are suspicious. Stick them on the Junior Apprentice and make them seem as silly and as arrogant as possible. That will prevent any young people out there getting any delusions of grandeur.
5. The exceptional super-achiever
‘Finally! A young person doing something truly exceptional. Let’s put them on a pedestal and raise them so high above the rest of their peers that their greatness will be completely unattainable to the average teen. That way everybody else will feel distinctly average and unexceptional.’
Questions to discuss with your young people:
• Are these media stereotypes of young people fair?
• Do you think there is any truth to them?
• Is categorising people like this helpful?
• What can we do to get better representation of young people in the media in this country?
• What does 1 Timothy 4:12 mean for you in this context?