How Are Teens Portrayed in the Media?

The media has often been accused of portraying teens negatively by focusing on stories of violence, drug abuse and teen pregnancy. Since the 1950’s, youth culture has been associated with rebellion and irresponsibility. The media plays a role in demonizing teens through sensationalism.

While positive stories about teenagers exist, research shows that the vast majority of news reported on the younger generation is about crime. The media formulates a stereotype of teenagers as hoods, thieves, and drug addicts. Teenage boys are painted as untrustworthy and even frightening. Teenage girls are portrayed as irresponsible and promiscuous.

Even entertainment media contributes to the negative perception of young people. Stories about Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus, and shows like “16 and Pregnant,” perpetuate negative opinions. Films such as Rebel without a Cause originated the stereotype of rebellious teens who disobey society’s rules. Youth radicalism in the 1960s gave way to youth marketing and consumerism in the 1980s. In 2015, teens are seen as both materialistic and disobedient.

While the media glamorizes youth, it is arguably guilty of unfairly stigmatizing young people in the real world. These media images can prevent teenagers from seeking employment, because they are assumed to be unreliable workers. They can also influence how teens view each other.