Teenagers like the softer side of soaps

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

TELEVISION soap operas might be popular with teenagers because they portray neighbourliness and community to a world which is losing both, writes David Nicholson-Lord.

Teenagers spend 11 hours a week watching programmes such as EastEnders, Neighbours, Home and Away and Coronation Street, a survey in Check It Out], the Which? magazine for young people, found. The soaps are good ways of communicating messages about social problems. However, many young people watch because of peer-group pressure the latest soap drama is often the first topic of conversation at school the next morning.

The magazine asked 100 teenagers for their views and found they all watched soaps. Their top three favourites were Neighbours, Home and Away and EastEnders. Coronation Street is praised for being amusing and Brookside for its readiness to tackle serious issues.

One girl aged 14 said she learnt more about Aids from EastEnders than from school. Another, aged 15, said a leukaemia death in Home and Away made her think about the issue. But there is criticism of soaps for featuring too much trauma, death and 'depressing stuff'.

The magazine says the appeal of soaps is to the 'nosey' side of our natures: they are a concentrated and heightened version of real life. Angela Devas, a media studies lecturer, says soaps are 'set in communities where neighbours talk to each other. That often doesn't happen in real life but it's appealing to be in on a soap world where it does.'