Sunday, March 25, 2007

Child Speakers at the World Media Summit

(Dateline: Johannesburg. Posting from the World Summit on Media for Children)
Along with the dignitaries and media experts, three teenagers also spoke at the opening session. An 18-year-old Swedish woman named Ida told of her participation in a study in which they analyzed the portrayal of youth in four daily newspapers. Their findings:

1. Children and their views are seriously under-represented in the media.
2. When they are represented, adults are often speaking for them, denying children their own voices.
3. Teens are often portrayed stereotypically, specifically as violent, superficial, and depressed.
4. Teens are most typically presented either as victims, or as perpetrators of crimes.

Ida said that she is concerned because people who are not connected to youth are forming their opinions based on what they read. When I read about myself as part of a group that is violent, depressed and ignorant, I get very angry.

She had three recommendations for the media present in the room.
• Include our opinions in general issues affecting the community, not just youth issues.
• Avoid stereotypes of both youth and gender.
• Make sure we speak for ourselves, and are allowed to express ourselves in our own way.

This last point, that “we express ourselves in our own way” has been a recurring motif as I have talked to teenagers throughout the day.

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