The following was posted by Charlie Roper on his blog. I wanted to make a reply, but as it’s limited to 140 characters, I thought I’d use my blog to put my own thoughts down.
Every young person has had the experience. Whether it be the local shop attendant eyeing you suspiciously or an adult crossing the street to avoid your path; every young person has been a victim of unfair judgement by the society we all live in.
Many argue that this is the fault of the media and the way it portrays teenagers. The media focus is on youth drug addiction, vandalism, knife crime, unprotected sex as well as many other issues that can be seen in a negative light. This has led some people to perceive young people in a bad way often leading to stereotypes and gross generalisations.
The media plays an important role in creating public opinion, and this can lead to creating policy and law. Therefore, it can be argued that if there is a misrepresentation of young people, and that the view is inaccurate, there is a danger that the policies that are created in the future will not address their needs. Negative media stereotypes can also influence young people directly. Young people can be discriminated against or treated in a suspicious manner because of the views these stereotypes have lead too.
Shouldn’t young people be embraced by the community they live in rather than be alienated by it?
Behind the stereotypes, teenagers do achieve and inspire. There is a lot that we can teach and that older generations can learn. Just because the minority of teenagers carry out pathetic incidents does not mean that a generation has to suffer because of it. A generation is being stigmatised as promiscuous, unhealthy and violent.
Is society giving teenagers a hard time for no real reason?
Charlie is an Explorer Scout and I’m guessing that he’s around 16 / 17 and lives somewhere near London (I stand to be corrected). He is one of the Scouts that attends events when a ‘real Scout’ rather than a Leader or someone from Gilwell is needed. He’s been on TV when Bear Grylls was appointed as Chief Scout, at the Stop the Water Tax campaign and recently at the political party conferences talking to the political big cheeses!
Charlie does make a very good point. A lot of the perception of young people is down to what is read, heard or seen in the media. The story ‘15 Year Old Smashes Car Window’ is more likely to be in the news than ‘15 Year Old Raises Money for Local Charity’ for example. And these are the types of headlines that lead to the poor image of young people.
However, young people (as a total group) have always a bad image in the view of the media and the older generations. Think of Teddy Boys in the 1950’s, Hippies in the 1960’s, Punks in the 1970’s and so on. My generation was treated with the same suspicions in the mid to late 1980’s (was it THAT long ago??). And now parts of that same generation I belong to are ‘Tut Tutting’ at today’s young people.
The idea that the few will always ruin it for the many will always be true. You can be talking about teenagers, football fans, rail enthusiasts, people drinking in a pub, the list is endless. And of course, it’s always the bad behaviour that is reported over the good. It’s always the minority that tar the majority with their brush.
For every gang of ‘hoodies’ seen hanging on a street corner, there are many, many more young people at their martial arts club or football club or at Scouts – you get the idea, but it’s the intimidating gang that sets the tone and image in people’s mind. I know that when I was 16, I kept clear of the gangs that were around as I knew they could be trouble.
So is it the perception created by the media that all young people are ‘evil’ (I exaggerate somewhat of course!) the whole point? Not necessarily. Part (a smaller part I grant you) of the issue is the attitude of some young people, that they can do anything they want and hang the consequences. There is a lack of respect for people who are not in their own age range and are authority figures. Some, and again I say this is a minority, young people believe that they know best, everyone else is wrong and they can do what they want and when they want. And this is in part due to their bringing up and the values they inherit from their parents. If ‘little Johnny’ is allowed to get away with ‘murder’ in the home, then he will think he can do the same in the ‘real world’. This then leads back to a minority of young people causing problems which are then reported in the media, which is all the majority of the population hear about young people etc. Vicious circle.
Charlie says that teenagers achieve and inspire. Yes they do. Charlie himself is in a great position to change the attitudes of the ‘great and the good’ by being able to talk to them. He is an articulate teenager who is interested in getting politicians to do things for young people and their communities (Stop the Rain Tax). Just look at Mike Perham who sailed around the world age 17 – a better, braver man than me! But closer to home, the Explorer Scouts who come to help out at our Beavers, Cubs and Scouts are doing this because they enjoyed their time in these sections and they enjoy helping out. They may even earn a badge or two (sorry, Group in joke!). They are all great people who inspire the younger members of the Group. But what I do know is that they are liked and respected and they go against the stereotype. Who knows they may even become Leaders.
It’s just a shame that these are the young people whose stories are not covered in the media, it’s the minority that cause the problems and thereby cause the perception.
Do you agree or disagree with me? Are you under 20? Please let me know what you think.