Generation Whatever is getting a bad rap. From reports of Ace Crew gang violence to the question of letting 16-year-olds vote, each week brings a new tale portraying bleached-blonde-body-pierced-baggy-clothed 14- to 19-year-olds as clueless and ignorant.
It goes beyond reporting the news. We’re labelling a generation by its lowest common denominator and giving the rest a raw deal.
If the public only reads about little old ladies robbing grocery stores, then all little old ladies become ski-mask-flaunting thieves. And by presenting only one image of teenagers, society assumes all teenagers are alike. So if green-haired teenagers are shown committing crimes, then any teenager with green hair may be labelled a criminal.
Generation Whatevers have a right to complain that all news about them is bad. The public only sees stories about what teens do wrong, instead of what they do right.
For example, who knows about the Youth Volunteer Awards which took place at Rideau Hall a few weeks ago? And who knows about the Youth Services Bureau, a group of Ottawa teenagers which promote youth issues?
Now, raise your hand if you know about students bringing guns to school, or about Reena Virk, who was beaten to death by her Vancouver classmates.
Persistent bad press has understandably diminished the public’s view of the next generation.
Take, for example, the students who staged walk-outs to support the teachers’ strike last year.
If anything was seen about that it was interviews of younger students talking about how they were excited about days off, or upset because extra-curricular activities were being cancelled.
But what about students who were worried about graduating and getting into college or university? They had something positive to say. But they are the ones who are being ignored.
Were these students too nice to be on the front page? Were their noses not pierced, their hair not dyed brightly enough, their clothing not threatening enough?
Or is the average youth just too boring to be considered an issue?
Society is telling these youth that the only way to get attention is to act like hooligans!
We can’t ignore the negative stories that do exist, but consistent coverage of youth issues will go a long way in promoting positive stereotypes.
Just remember one of those stereotypes might be the next prime minister!—Meredith Dundas and Lindsay George