The Youth Sub Culture Media

Essay add: 28-10-2015, 17:07   /   Views: 205

To know about the way the media portrays young people, we should make it clear what is "media". Media can be treated as the channels for communication and the distributors of news and cultures. It has great influence power on society, government and policy makers. Media should be objective in all news reporting, but there are exceptions. When you read a newspaper, you may find some sensation headlines. Using an example of BBC News (See Appendix 1), it used "British adults' fear youngsters" as a news headline, this gave the readers an negative impression about the youngsters. However, the news was not about youngsters' behavior but adults, it only stated that adults in Britain were less likely to hang out with young people. More than that, it even stated that "young crime in itself has remained fairly static in the last 10 years" (British adults' fear youngsters", 2006) which is not the meaning in the headline.

In the eye of media, youngsters always link to some kinds of negative labels, like "troublemakers", "people at risk" or even "the threats of society", the media rarely report good news or positive images about youngsters. According to a survey "Media Monitor (2000)", it states that in every 12 stories on local news, there is one related to youth, and most of them are "bad news" indeed. Probably it is a matter of "stereotype". Media are accused of exaggerating the risks, as they are used to exaggerate the issues about youth and over-report the juvenile criminal activities. Youngsters are made to be the scapegoat for different social problems.

It is no doubt that media are having bias when reporting issue about youngsters, bias can be created through the use of language and wordings or angles of photo captured, etc. With all these elements, media can tell the stories differently or even inaccurately. When media deal with the new culture of youngsters, they are more likely to present the stories in a negative way. They love to provoke violence between youngsters, they love to dramatize the stories and make it as an alarming issue. Headlines like "Hong Kong youth caught in wave of ketamine addiction" are not difficult to find in the news report, the word of "wave" makes other feel like a disaster, and this even portrayed youngster as something should be aware of. Using a sensational headline can attract readers, making the issue more dramatic can increase the news value, but all these behaviors are not fair to teenagers

"In recent public discourse and media, youth ……have been increasingly represented as "dangerous others."" (Mahiri et al., 2003) "Black youth violence has a bad rap" is a topic of an online journal, it firstly gave an bad impression of black youth. Rap music has become a popular culture in youngster world, especially for the black youth. However, media and public discourses still treated this new culture as something bad, they linked this culture with violence or dangerous. Rap music is only a music styles, youngsters use their own words and style to express their feeling. Media often constructs an image of perpetrator for black youth, thus, they portray their new culture negative also.

**Effect on youth [ how portrayals differentiate themselves] (100 - 150) - 168

No matter media portray a negative image for youth with intention or not, these portrayals will affect how the youth think about their own identities. To use the analysis of Labeling theory, youth began to identify with the label attached to themselves and thus believed themselves to be more deviant and separate from the rest of the society.(youth and crime : 122) Under the social isolation and misunderstanding, these groups of youngsters may finally single out themselves as an outsider(Becker), and this make them more difficult to join the mainstream of the society. They accept "deviant" as their "master status", that is kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, also they have no choice but to join some other "deviants". They will develop some new beliefs within their group and they share the same values which is different from the social norms, that's what Cohen (1955) called - "Sub-culture". Negative portrayals may lead youngsters alienate themselves, or even bring disgrace on itself as they do not believe they can contribute to the society.


As I mentioned above, media has great influence power on our society. Culture is social product produced through social interaction. Every society has its own culture and norms, what the majority believe will then become a mainstream and the minority may become "deviant". Media is the means of communication and the channels for interaction, it has the power to affect the public discussion and shape the public perceptions.

According to Alex Koroknay- Palicz (2004), an executive director of the National Youth Right Association, stated that media has a role of "the great mentioner", through the source selection and omission processes, the story can be presented differently. The media role is very important to our society, what they mentioned and portrayed will affect the public perception.

As the media continually constructs stereotype of youth and over-report of juvenile subculture and crime, it leads the public perceive youth is "anti-society" and it is a "social problem". The media report the case in a sensational and exaggerated manner, the public fears youngsters or even treat them as a threat to society. The risk is over-emphasized and it not proportionate to the actual risks, but everyone in the society will just perceive it as real over time.

In some degree, media tries to polarize the mainstream of the society and youngsters with sub-culture. According to Stanley Cohen (1972), he introduced the term of "moral panics", he suggested that "Societies appear to be subject, every now and then, to periods of moral panic. A condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests; its nature presented in a stylized and stereotypical fashion by the mass media, the moral barricades are manned by editors, bishops, politicians and other right-thinking people; socially accredited experts pronounce their diagnoses and solutions; ways of coping are evolved or (more often) resorted to; the condition then disappears, submerges or deteriorates and becomes more visible."(Cohen, 1972: 9). In this case, the "youth" is the group of persons of what Cohen (1972) mentioned. After a period of stereotype by media, the society will call for help and the politician will solve the problem respectively (Cohen, 1972).

The overreaction of society leads to the overreaction of government too. Youth are misrepresented as anti-social and people at risk, these misrepresentations of youth cultivate a misleading picture of the young people world. The society overestimates the severity of danger, they fears young people and thus they will give pressure to the government and policy makers. They also challenge the ability and effectiveness of government' policies, also they insist the government to solve the "youth problem", for example, to have greater control on youngsters and enact new laws especially for juveniles, etc.

Society has misperceived young people negatively, excessive fearfulness and unnecessary worries appear. The mainstream of society may treat them badly or even discriminate against the youngsters. Under this condition, the society will be polarized, this will lead to the problem of loss of trust and harm of social cohesion. When people was living with fears and worries, they will be afraid to trust the youngsters or even they will exclude those youth in the society. All these happen just because of the media distorted the picture of youth sub-culture at first.

In order to give response to the societal reaction, the first step must be having policy intervention. With the mass coverage of youth subculture in the media and society, people in the society are concerning the risks. Government is forced to do something for the "youth problem". The agendas of governments and policy-makers will be affected by the public fears and perception. At the prosecution level, "young people" became the main target of "stop and check" and increase the surveillance like placing more police around schools and some public areas. At the policy making level, change in law enforcement is inevitable, set up kind of suppressive legislation which will not affect the whole society but only the target "youth".

Having different ways of policy interventions, can they really solve the "youth problem" effectively? People may challenge the government and politicians that they are not really address the real issues of concern, especially for the young people.

Through the media and society distortion, "youth sub-culture" changed to a "youth problem". It is only the phenomena of new culture emerge, and it is the problem of media and society as they do not accept and adopt the new culture. For the government and politicians, as they are the "controllers" of the society, if there is noise from the society, they are required to give response. Because of this, the young people suddenly become a "social problem" when everyone are paying attention on their behaviors and norms. Although the government appears to help the young people and solve the problem, the policy is not really focus on them but more likely for giving responds to the society. These give rise to another question of "whose interests have been best served?"

It is common that politicians of all parties are used to use media as their means of gaining public support. When media over-report about youth problem, they will come out and help to solve the problem actively. According to "Porfilio & Carr (2008), they found that the politicians love to use mass media bring out their ideas or even portray image for a specific group. Frequently, they love to use "youth problem" as their main agenda. It is because young people are not the voters, they will not affect their election paths. The politicians make use of the media's misrepresentation of youth, and suggest different for solving the youth problem. The policies seems helpful for dealing with the problem, on the other hands, it will not affect others in the society. This can surely help the politicians to gain support from the society, that's the voters.

As these politicians got nothing to loss when they introduce those policies, their interests have been surely best served in the end.

Media undertakes an important role in the world, it is the main channel for us to give and get all up-to-date information. However, we should be aware of the problem of "stereotype". Young people are the future of our society, we should help them to develop their path in a positive way instead of separate them from the mainstream. However, the media often portrays a negative image for the youngsters, this lead them alienate themselves as "deviant". We should pay attention on this problem and stop the misrepresentation continue decade by decade.

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