Teenage job hopes ruined by negative media stereotypes

 

Persistent negative stereotypes in the media about teenagers are harming their prospects of getting a job, according to research published today.

The finding comes ahead of the latest Government employment figures, which will be published this morning and are expected to show that youth unemployment is still at around one million. Four-fifths of 14- to 17-year-olds feel their age group is unfairly represented in the media, according to polling of more than 1,000 young people by the think tank Demos. A further 85 per cent believe negative stereotypes are affecting their chances of getting a job.

The report, called Introducing Generation Citizen, also polled 500 secondary school teachers and found that the majority of teenagers were engaged with social issues. The misconception of the disengaged teenager was turned on its head by the study, which showed that 80 per cent of young people and two-thirds of their teachers believe this generation is more concerned with social issues than teenagers in previous decades.

Jonathan Birdwell, head of the citizenship programme at Demos and author of the report, said: “People think of teenagers as apathetic, lazy and self-centred, with a sense of entitlement; that’s the dominant negative stereotype. But our research shows the reality is that more young people are volunteering in the community, and the most common words used by teachers to describe them in our survey were ‘caring’, ‘hard-working’ and ‘enthusiastic’.

He added: “Almost nine out of 10 young people feel bad stereotypes [about teenagers] are impacting on their employability. We constantly hear from the Confederation of British Industry’s Education and Skills Surveys that young people lack employability skills, but we need research into whether the employers saying that have actually employed any young people in the past few years.”

Experts believe that reality television shows depicting teenagers going wild on holiday, such as the BBC’s Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents and Channel 4’s What Happens in Kavos, give the impression that this is an irresponsible generation obsessed with binge drinking. Yet the latest evidence suggests teenagers are drinking less and doing fewer drugs. The percentage of 11- to 15-year-olds who report having had an alcoholic drink in the past week went from one in four in 2003 to one in 10 in 2012, according to NatCen Social Research.

Susana Giner, director of the Youth Media Agency, which helps 16- to 25-year-olds with media projects, said: “There’s a lack of balance. The fly-on-the-wall stuff in Ayia Napa and places like that is not typical of teenagers, it’s typical of our voyeuristic circus-freak-show television.”

Ms Giner said she felt the most damaging stereotypes came from news reporting: “Young people face news stereotypes which are always around gangs and knife crime. That’s a real problem.”

The most recent report on the UK from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child found that Britain’s “climate of intolerance and negative public attitudes towards children, especially adolescents” might be infringing their rights. It said the media was fuelling these attitudes.

Young people told The Independent that plots in EastEnders and Coronation Street were potentially damaging, because teenagers often behave badly as part of dramatic storylines.

Case studies: 'One woman told me that teenagers are low lives hanging around on street corners'

Rob Austin, 18, from Newcastle

"The way teenagers are presented in the media does make a difference when you’re applying for a job. In the last six months I’ve applied for about 30 part-time and weekend jobs to work around school. Mostly retail work, customer service, call centres and cleaning. I just want to get a job so I’m not living off my mum and dad but I keep getting turned down. If I didn’t mention I was 18 on my CV I think I might have got further. Now I’ve started not putting my age down.

"Bad news sells better than good news which is why I think the portrayal of teenagers in the media is so bad. I did a survey asking people what they thought of teenagers for my social action foundation, Teenwise. One woman told me ‘teenagers are going nowhere in life and the nation hasn’t got a hope in hell of surviving once they’re leaders’. She said teenagers were all low lives hanging around street corners drinking. I was blown away by it."

Olivia Bray, 16, from Shepperton in Surrey

"Teenagers are always portrayed as if they’re all the same. We’re not all bad and we don’t all go round breaking the law. Programmes like EastEnders suggest that teenagers are all in gangs. Where I live there isn't lots of gangs or knife crime.

"We’re treated differently because of the media. I live where the floods have been really bad and I was walking home from college one day and talking to a friend about it. An older lady stopped and said ‘I wouldn’t expect you to be talking about flooding, I thought teenagers only talked about shopping and what they are doing at the weekend’. I was quite offended.

"I had an inset day on Friday and went to volunteer at one of the local pubs to help fill sandbags. I also volunteer on Saturdays teaching children singing. I don't have time for a job because of school and volunteering but part of me doesn’t want to try and get one because I feel that if I go for an interview and I was up against an adult, they’d choose the adult whether they had a better CV or not, because of the stereotype that teenagers are portrayed as bad people."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Digital Optimisation Executive - Marketing

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific