There are many stereotypes cast over modern-day teenagers, ranging from pot-smoking delinquents to brainwashed iPhone zombies to sheltered spoiled brats. The youth make up 1.8 billion of the world’s population; so, how are they portrayed in news, television, and film?
It’s important to remember that teens have struggles to overcome, just as adults do. However, TV shows and movies don’t always accurately describe the challenges high schoolers face; they’re under tremendous amounts of responsibility from financial planning to college applications. On the other hand, social media platforms such as Twitter or Instagram seem to be the best depiction of the average teenager in their natural habitat.
They use technology to their advantage to express themselves and speak their minds. Take March For Our Lives, a nation-wide movement led by passionate high school students. Their demands for action and organizational capabilities seem to be a more accurate representation of teenagers today.
However, this doesn’t mean all teens are empowered and motivated. According to the Campaign For Youth Justice, 200,000 children are charged by the adult criminal justice system per year, many for non-violent crimes. Are teenagers negatively stigmatized because of a constant media portrayal of them as “delinquents?”
The Frameworks Institute stated in 2001 that “the media is particularly adept at using the category ‘teens’ to illustrate the worst, and occasionally, the best American tendencies”.
This may account for people’s views on teenagers and the way they react to them: a cop might stop a group of skateboarders on the street, while a pedestrian might even smile at them. A person’s depiction of teenagers in the media can determine the way they see youth on a daily basis.
The portrayal of youth, especially in news pieces and commentaries on teen life, seems to focus mainly on their addiction to cell phones and technology. A Google search on “technology addiction” results in countless sites and forums directed at parents with children addicted to technology. Though these accusations are seldom backed up with tangible proof, they may not be far from the truth.
The bigger picture is, the line separating angsty teenage stereotypes and the truth is a blurry one. Though it is difficult to separate mainstream media’s representations of youth from reality, the truth must remain clear. Teenagers, although a puzzling species, are their own individuals. They don’t have to fit the television mold of a typical young person, in fact, they rarely do. When a teen conforms to society’s standards (a delinquent from a bad neighborhood, a mean girl with lots of money, etc.), they are often treated as so. There are plenty of stigmas related to teenagers, and it is important to separate them from the individuals that make up our youth.