An exploration of how teenagers are represented in the media

For my specialist study I want to show that in the media, the youth of today are represented negatively and the media seem to only focus on one type of teenager, not all. I hypothesise that while teenagers are represented mostly negative in the media, there are some platforms of which they are represented in a positive light. In order to test my hypothesis, I did a lot of research looking into books, newspapers, magazines, youtube and films.

As part of my FMP I want to write about topics that will interest all teenagers, not just a select few. Doing this research will help with my FMP as I have looked more into stereotypes, how teenagers feel today in society and how different media outlets represent them in different ways. Knowing this will help me when if comes to writing more of my copy.

It does not come as a surprise that all throughout media there are stereotypes, a lot of which are based around teenagers. A stereotype is where individuals are placed into groups that labels them a certain way. Examples of this would be labels such as ‘trouble makers’ ‘antisocial’ and ‘unaware’. Flynn et al highlights the work of Garett who believes “The media has continually portrayed the young as something to be feared and envied” (2004, p149) Whilst this is a valid point, it is more evident for certain groups of individuals than any other. Young, black, males are constantly represented as something that you should be wary of as it places them into groups of people which then causes people to assume that they are part of ‘gangs’. Whilst there are possibilities that they could be a part of a gang, most of the time they are hugely misunderstood, especially within the media. Donaldson touches on this “In worst case scenarios, black boys and men actually internalize biases and stereotypes and, through their behavior, reinforce and even perpetuate the misrepresentations. They become victims of perception.”(2015) This shows that not only do the media representations affect how people view people of colour, it affects them in a negative way too. Garret also supports this point again by saying “when a highly visible youth group emerges, the media stereotypes that follow it ensure it will come to be seen as threat to society”(2004, p145)

When it comes to different media platforms, there are a variety of different ways that teenagers are represented. For example, newspapers represent them in a mostly negative way due to their audience, being mostly middle aged/ older adults with specific views. Bateman touches on this “It is an old adage in press that bad news helps to sell newspapers and so the newspapers , especially those with a right-leaning political slant, are quick to latch onto these negative representations, but the consequence of this is the establishment of a narrow stereotype which is applied to young people and the consequence of this is that more positive representations of young people are harder to find” (2011, P152) This shows that if the media represent teens in a negative way, people are more likely to latch on to that rather than if the media were to show the good and the bad that people of every age posses, as it would be seen as difficult to keep up with both. Bateman then goes on to say “…positive representations of young people are harder to find. However, they do exist, often in connection with examination success or when young teenagers gain entry into top university’s” (2011, P152) This challenges my hypothesis as it shows that there are good things written about teens, and it is not all bad.

Magazines are mostly aimed at a teenage audience so, naturally, they would have to represent them in a ‘positive’ way in order to attract their audience. They do this, but only in one, particular way. For example, they may only represent the ‘cool’ kids who are outgoing and popular, and not our introverted stay home type, who are just as interesting. Another thing that magazines do is represent them in unrealistic standards. They tend to have one type of person and go with it, so with teenagers being young and impressionable, they may think that the way they are represented in a magazine is how they should be in real life. Mcquail says “The more important the media are to people, the more likely they are to attract positive or negative value judgement about content or about the practice itself”(1994, p312) This supports my point by saying that if a teenager were to see ‘themselves’ represented in a magazine as slim, fun, cool and perfect with no flaws, they may feel negative about themselves, bringing on a more serious case of their body image being damaged.

The way in which teenagers are seen in the media and in society are closely linked together. Teenagers often feel as though their views are beaten down and not taken into account merely because they aren’t adults. In a video by Ted talks on youtube, Simonds (2014) says “my voice has been disrespected what seems like hundreds of times. I’ve been told by adults that i’m not ready to vote even though I keep up with politics, and I’m sure of my beliefs” She then goes on to say “…no one would say those things to an adult.” This shows exactly how most teenagers in todays society feels. It shows how the representations of teenagers online can affect how people see them in real life, which is somewhat demeaning to young people who only want to be heard and voice their opinions like everybody else does everyday.

In conclusion, I believe that teenagers are generally represented in a negative light in the media. Whether this be outright negativity which stereotypes the youth of today and makes people see them as threatening, or something that makes a teenager feel negatively about themselves. Researching into this topic has given me a great insight as to what not to do when it comes to representing teenagers, and how to interest them as readers in order to cut down on stereotypes.


Bateman, A, Benyahia, S.C, Mortimer, C, Wall, P (2011) A2 Media studies:The essential introduction for WJEC 1st edition: Routledge 

BBC News, Negative stereotypes ‘hurting teenage job prospects’ (2014) accessed on 3/01/17

Broccolo, C, Teenagers portrayed in the Media, (2014) accessed on 13/12/16

Colemen, S, Ross, K (2010)The Media and the public 1st edition: Blackwell Publishing

Donaldson, L (2015) When the media misrepresents black men, the effects are felt in the real world [online] accessed on 3/01/17 

Flanagin, A.J, Metzger, M.J, (2010) Kids and credibility 1st edition: The MIT Press

Flynn, R ,Roche, J,Tucker, S Thompson, R  (2004) Youth In Society 2nd edition: Sage Publications

Hart, A, (1991) Understanding The Media 1st edition: Routledge 

Mcquail, D, (1994) Mass Communication Theory 3rd edition: Sage Publications 

Simmonds, K, I’m 17 | Kate Simonds | TEDxBoise, (2015) accessed on 13/12/16