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Young people in the media

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In this era of technological development, the world lies at young people’s feet, allowing them to speak up and influence matters that affect them through the use of modern media. A wide variety of channels such as blogs, online games, music, video, social networking sites, magazines and television, empowers them to express their creativity and to pursue their interests. Of course, as is often the case, great benefits go hand in hand with certain risks.

Author / translator Insafe

In this era of technological development, the world lies at young people’s feet, allowing them to speak up and influence matters that affect them through the use of modern media. A wide variety of channels such as blogs, online games, music, video, social networking sites, magazines and television, empowers them to express their creativity and to pursue their interests. Of course, as is often the case, great benefits go hand in hand with certain risks.

While working with modern media, we need to make sure we have a clear view of the possible challenges we may come across. Young people these days are increasingly aware of their right to privacy, protection from discrimination and the right to a safe environment, which is compromised by the discriminatory nature of certain portrayals of youth in different media and through advertising. They should be inspired to fight the spread of prejudices and possible harmful content, allowing them to enjoy the benefits of these channels to the full.

Aims of the game

- Clarify what your opinions are
- Work towards a shared policy position
- Let your voice be heard in Europe
- Enjoy discussing!

Created 24 March 2011
Last edited 20 June 2018
Topics Education, Risks & security, Technology

Policy positions

Policy position 1

For this particular role play, participants are invited to create their own policies and decide which they would support, which they would find acceptable, which they would find not acceptable and which they would abstain from.

One example could be: the display of sexually explicit images of minors in advertising should be legally prohibited.

Story cards


I suppose I knew it was wrong, but everyone was doing it. It wasn’t as if I was downloading thousands of tracks – just a few. This letter just appeared in the post saying they knew that I’d downloaded the songs and that I had done it illegally. My dad had to pay 700 Euros – he wasn’t happy at all. It just seems so unfair, why was I the one to get caught. Will it stop me in the future? I really don’t know!

Adam's story

Yeah, I’ve got my own website, it’s a really important part of what I do. I want to be a journalist when I leave school and nowadays, you absolutely need to have an online presence. It says a lot about you and it’s your work that’s being published. The more people who follow me the better a reputation I will have, people will start to listen – that’s the beauty of the internet – when things go viral there’s no stopping them.

Simon's story

I’d been dating my boyfriend for almost a year and so when he asked me to show my boobs one night while we were talking on MSN, I didn’t think twice, I just did it. I trusted him and never dreamt that he would then show the pictures to his friends at school. Everyone has seen them now, it was so embarrassing and my parents were so disappointed. I’ve moved to another school now, but I’m sure that some people know what happened. My biggest worry is that one day, they will appear again and the whole nightmare will start over – that’s the trouble with the internet isn’t it – you can’t ever get rid of anything, not properly.

Anna's story

I’ve got three children 6, 13 and 15 and yes to be honest I’m worried stiff. I mean you see all this stuff on the news: paedophiles, people being stalked online, losing money because someone has hacked into their bank accounts. I mean I know that the internet is good, but I honestly think we’d be better off without it. We’ve bought them a computer because they need it for their school work, but my two teenagers spend a lot of time on there. And Facebook – well, don’t get me started – have you seen some of the stuff they put on there? Totally inappropriate if you ask me. I don’t know how they get away with it.

Linda's story

Sure, there are risks there, I mean we all have an online reputation, but I think people miss the point really – because we can take control. I’ve decided who I want to be my “friend” online – yes I have about 460 “friends”, but they don’t all have access to everything, Facebook lets you do that, it always has done, but people don’t set it up like that. Privacy is down to you in the end, I only have a handful of people who can see everything on my profile, just the ones I really trust – that’s life isn’t it, lots of acquaintances, but only a few friends!

Jason's story

At the end of the day, we have to sell newspapers – people aren’t as interested in the good news stories, it’s like TV, they want something gritty that they can get their teeth into. The internet is amazing, there are so many horror stories out there, no shortage of material. My boss isn’t interested in hearing about how a school has used the internet to share ideas with another school on the other side of the world, but a teacher who is saying inappropriate things about her pupils on Facebook – brilliant!

Tom's story

To be honest I think it’s disgusting the things they are doing. I don’t know where common decency has gone – I mean we weren’t perfect when we were young, but some of the pictures that they put on the internet, the way they speak, they have absolutely no respect for anyone or anything. The internet has made it worse if you ask me. How can they possibly think that it’s acceptable to dress the way that they do? I blame the parents – they shouldn’t let them spend all of this time on the internet and on their phones, they should get outside and get some fresh air like I did when I was their age. You can keep your internet, it’s done nothing but harm.

Martha's story

I just wish I was slimmer – you know, like a model. Everyone says I don’t need to lose weight, but I do, they are just being “nice”. There are some websites that have these really cool diets on, but my mum says that they can be dangerous – I’m not really sure – I do just want to be like some of the girls I see online – they’re beautiful, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be like that is there? I mean it’s not that I’m unhappy with my body or anything, I just want to lose a bit of weight and you know, be more like them?

Sarah's story


Old Before Their Time

Does sexualisation in the media force children and young people to grow up too soon?

Different Issues?

Does online media present a whole new set of issues for young people that we need to address? How do online media differ from traditional media (newspapers, TV, radio…)? What different strategies do we need to adopt?

Who Cares About Privacy?

Should young people be concerned about privacy? How might privacy impact on both online and offline activities of young people today? What are the main issues?

Sexualisation in the Media

Experts warn that the media’s portrayal of young women as sex objects harms girls’ mental and physical health.

Copyright – What’s That?

"Young people today don't care about copyright - they will take anything if they can get it without paying". Do you agree? What impact has technology had on the attitudes of young people towards ownership and intellectual property?

A Cut and Paste Generation?

Young people are sometimes described as the ‘cut and paste generation’, unaware of – or unconcerned by – the issues of plagiarism. Do you agree?

Overplayed by the Media?

Does the media sensationalise the risks to children and young people online? Why might they do this? What impact might this have?

Is the Internet Eroding Literacy Skills?

Some experts warn that new ways of communicating - such as the shortened 'text speak' used on mobiles phones, chat services, and social networking sites (SNS) - are contributing to the gradual erosion of literacy skills in young people. Is this really the case?

Validity and Bias

Children and young people don’t bother to compare different websites to decide on whether information is true or reliable, because they believe everything that they see online.

Media Bias Against Young People

Is negative reporting on young people influencing the way adult society is treating them?

Bad News Sells

It has been quoted: “The news media are, for the most part, the bringers of bad news... and it's not entirely the media's fault, bad news gets higher ratings and sells more papers than good news.” How does this affect bias in media reporting?

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech is an important human right, but does this apply equally to the online environment? What are the issues and implications?

Responsibilities for Media Literacy?

Who is responsible for teaching children and young people media literacy? Do responsibilities lie solely with parents and teachers, or does industry have a role to play too? How do awareness-raising initiatives, such as Data Protection Day (DPD) and Safer Internet Day (SID) help?

Sex Sells

In the world of advertising, it has often been said that ‘sex sells’. Are sexy and provocative images in the mass media encouraging young people to explore their sexuality at too young an age?

Living in a Material World

Is society’s fixation with status symbols and material wealth giving young people unrealistic expectations of what they can expect in their adult life?

Invisible Audiences

Do we know who is able to see what we “say” and “do” online? We have to accept that once something is posted it can potentially be seen by anyone. Privacy is only as secure as the online friends we have.

Gender in the Media

How are gender stereotypes portrayed in the media? How might these portrayals affect the perceptions of young people as they seek to form their own identities?

Celebrity Culture

Society today is obsessed with celebrity culture, but how does this affect children and young people? Does it have a positive influence in that it raises children’s ambitions, or a negative influence in that it gives them unrealistic aspirations?

What is Beauty?

Does the media promote a realistic view of beauty? What impact might this have on the self-esteem of children and young people? How might this impact on other societal issues such as anorexia and self harm?

Negative Portrayal of Youth

The media often portrays a picture of youth as being ‘unruly’, ‘out of control’, and ‘lacking respect’, when in reality such headlines relate to a small minority. How might the media change so that it portrays young people in a more positive way? What can young people do to influence this change?

Media Violence

Violence has always played a role in entertainment (think back to Tom and Jerry cartoons), but there is a growing consensus that media violence has changed in recent years – for example, there is more of it, it is evident in every form of media (print, video, music, online), and it is much more graphic. What has bought about this change, and what is the impact on children and young people?

Electronic Media: a Threat to Public Health?

An academic named Huesmann states: "Exposure to violent electronic media has a larger effect than all but one other well-known threat to public health. The only effect slightly larger than the effect of media violence on aggression is that of cigarette smoking on lung cancer". Discuss.

Values, Beliefs and Behaviour

What impact has the mass media had on children and young people in recent years? How does it affect their values, beliefs and behaviours? Is this a good or bad thing?

Cyber Addiction

Is cyber addiction a real addiction, in the same way as say alcohol or drugs?


Privacy describes the right of an individual to exercise control over the collection, use and disclosure of their personal information by others. It can apply to both online and offline contexts.


One of the negative aspects of increased access to technology is cyberbullying – that is, using new media and technologies to deliberately hurt, upset, harass or embarrass others. Text messages, for example, provide a tool through which bullies can torment their victims, any time of the day or night.


Sexting is the term used to describe the sending of sexually suggestive or explicit messages or photographs, typically via mobile phone.

While normally consensual in the first instance, sadly many images end up widely circulated or posted online, especially if relationships end. The originator quickly looses all control over the images, often with embarrassing - and potentially devastating - consequences.

Data Protection Day

Data Protection Day aims to raise awareness of privacy and data protection. It is celebrated across Europe each year on 28 January.

Personal Information Online

The issue of revealing too much personal information is one of the greatest concerns associated with online technologies today. Risks include increased chances of online harassment or cyberbullying, inappropriate online contacts, increased chances of being located in the real world, and identity theft.

Location-Based Services

Location-based services (LBS) make use of the inbuilt facilities of mobile phones to provide content and services based on geographical location.

Recently launched services such as Facebook Places, Foursquare and Gowalla allow people to broadcast their locations to friends, often with a gaming element to encourage people to ‘check in’ or upload location-tagged photos.

Media Multi-Tasking

Media multi-tasking is a fairly new term, used to describe the act of using various types of media simultaneously – for example, watching the television while surfing the internet or sending text messages via a mobile phone.

Research studies estimate that consumers are now spending almost half their day using different types of media, while media multi-tasking accounts for one fifth (20 per cent) of media consumed throughout the day.

Social Networking

Social networking sites (or SNS) are online services which allow users to make connections and communicate with others on topics of mutual interest.

Many of the more popular social networks provide other functions such as chat, photo uploads, online games and applications.

Facebook, Hyves and Daily Motion are some of the more popular social networks in Europe.


Cookies are data files that are automatically stored by your web browser when you visit a website. They are usually used for authentication, storing user preferences, or tracking the user’s web browsing habits. Some users consider them a breach of privacy.

Most web browsers will allow the user to apply settings for cookies, such as rejecting them completely.

Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is the term used to describe the second generation of the internet and online services. Web 2.0 technologies are characterised by the fact that they support user-generated content, information sharing and online collaboration. Examples of Web 2.0 technologies include blogs, wikis, social networking sites and video-sharing sites.


A blog is an online diary or journal, created and published by an individual or a group. Blogs give their author a place to air their opinions, comment on current affairs, share their hobbies and interests, or just post random observations of the world at large. They can be private or open to anyone online.

It is estimated that 77 per cent of internet users read blogs, and more than 133,000,000 blogs have been indexed since 2002.

Media Literacy

Media literacy is the term used to describe the ability to access, analyse, evaluate, produce and understand communication and information in a range of forms (including online). It is considered to be one of the key skills that citizens require today.

Safer Internet Day

Safer Internet Day aims to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially among children and young people across the world. It is celebrated in February each year.

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship or limitation. It is recognised as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948.


Plagiarism is the term used to describe the act of copying a piece of work from another person and passing it off as your own, be that text, ideas or any other form of creative work. The concept is not new, but it is often thought that the widespread use of the internet has exacerbated the issue.

Online Reputation

Online reputation relates to the way you are perceived online – this could be through your online profiles, status updates, photos, videos or blog entries. Colleges and employers increasingly look at online reputations of individuals when reviewing applications.

Digital Footprint

The term digital footprint is used to describe the trail left behind by your interactions with the digital environment – this includes information that you consciously leave (such as entering personal information into an online registration form or online profile), and information that is less obvious (such as information collected by websites to track your visit).

Digital Natives

Children and young people today are often referred to as ‘digital natives’ – that is, born after the widespread implementation of digital technology, and therefore fully immersed in the online world and multitude of technology available today.

Digital Immigrants

Digital immigrants is the term used to refer to the generation of people who were born before the widespread implementation of digital technology, and who have had to adopt it at a later stage, to varying extents.

Cyber Addiction

Cyber addiction, or internet addiction, is a fairly new concept. While many people enjoy spending time online, some people become hooked on the internet allowing their online life to completely take over their real life and responsibilities. While recognised as a very real problem, psychologists are still debating on whether cyber addiction is indeed a real addiction.


Copyright refers to the laws that relate to the use of the creative works of an individual. They give rights to the individual to decide how their work may be copied, adapted or distributed.

Copyright protection comes into force as soon as something is created or fixed in some way; whether that is on paper, film, in audio format or electronically. Copyright does not, however, protect ideas, names or titles.

Sex Sells

Sex has been used in advertising ever since advertising began. Working on the basic premise that we are all sexual beings, sexually suggestive images are used to draw attention to a particular product, with the aim of embedding it in the consumer’s subconscious as something that is desirable. Sexual imagery has been used to sell just about everything – from vacuum cleaners to cars to coffee.

Attractiveness in the Media

A study by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) in the US found that “the media is the main source of information about women’s health issues” for adolescent girls. In addition, “1 out of every 3.8 television commercials sends some sort of ‘attractiveness message,’ and the average adolescent sees an estimated 5,260 attractiveness messages per year.”

Violence in the Media

“Since the early 1960s, research evidence has been accumulating that suggests that exposure to violence in television, movies, video games, cell phones, and on the internet increases the risk of violent behaviour on the viewer’s part, just as growing up in an environment filled with real violence increases the risk of them behaving violently”.

Media Saturation

“One of the notable changes in our social environment in the 20th and 21st centuries has been the saturation of our culture and daily lives by the mass media. In this new environment, radio, television (TV), movies, videos, video games, cell phones, and computer networks have assumed central roles in our children’s daily lives. For better or worse the mass media are having an enormous impact on our children’s values, beliefs, and behaviours”.

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