Society Stigmatises Youth Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 16 February 2017

Society Stigmatises Youth

Consider how far you would agree with this statement. In this assignment I will look at whether society stigmatizes youth. I plan to analyze the proposition that ‘society stigmatizes youth’ and also refute the proposition with supported evidence, and conclude as to whether I believe society does stigmatize young people. Furthermore, I will provide a sustained, coherent argument of youth viewed negatively and positively. In addition, I will address how the mass media creates preconceptions of youth, which influence societies view of all young people and whether youth are or are not stigmatized by their subculture.

I will also consider other factors such as a young persons demographics and government policy/legislation . In this essay I have defined Youth as ‘the time of life between childhood and maturity (Webster’s New World College Dictionary,2004 ,pg1021) nevertheless this implies that the young person is not mature therefore I believe it’s a negative generalization. Youth is difficult to define as the age that being a youth begins and ends is not a definite age, thus the characteristics that are linked to youths do not have an exact age that they should begin and end.

This is due to individual’s biological, psychological and social issues being different making maturity come at different points in their life. There are many ways to define what being a youth consists of; however, the one common factor is that definitions are not universally applicable due to different cultures and religions having an impact on maturity and attitudes. Stigmatisation is defined by the free dictionary (2007) as ‘distinguishing personal trait that is perceived as or actually is physically, socially, or psychologically disadvantageous’.

Youth may be viewed negatively due to the vast amount of negative coverage in media. Youth crime is as much a predicament of political and media creation as it a real threat. The media contribute significantly to the notion of ‘society stigmatizing youth’ through moral panic which is evident in youth crime whereby exceptional stories are highlighted rather statistics. Recent research by national charity Catch22, on behalf of Phillip Lawrence awards looks at adults perceptions of young people and crime.

The survey found that 35% of Scottish adults thought young people had predominantly had a negative impact on their community and as many as 63% assumed that young people are involved in crime however in reality, merely 5. 7% engaged in criminal activity on the other hand 8% associated young people with volunteering. Nonetheless it was apparent that 48% of all teenagers have volunteered within the communities (STV, 2009). These statistics contradict the publics views on young people as criminals.

In judgment of this contradiction, young people should be awarded for their outstanding contribution to communities with the aim of overturning negative perceptions. Nichola sturgeon (2007) points out that …We must not stigmatise, either deliberately or just as the result of lazy, over generalization, all young people for the behaviour or the majority… * The public’s intolerance is also reflected in the British Crime Survey, which indicated that the public felt young people committed up to half of all crime when in actual fact young people are responsible for only 12% (Barnados, 2008).

The Chief Executive and former Director General of the Prison Service, Martin Narey (2008) highlighted that …It is appalling that words like “animal”, “feral” and “vermin” are used daily in reference to children. These are not references to a small minority of children but represent the public view of all children. Despite the fact that most children are not troublesome there is still a perception that today’s young people are a more unruly, criminal lot than ever before… It is clear the British public miscalculate the amount of crime committed by young people.

These stereotypes are culturally shaped however the media sustain to portray young people more negatively than positively to gain the interest of the public sector to produce sales and thus creating a biased view. I believe both the media and politicians exaggerate youth crime and youths are demonised therefore society viewing young people in a negative light is justifiable. In England and Wales the age of criminal responsibility is set at a minimum age of ten years old, following the tragic death of Jamie Bulger (Guardian, 2010).

Research demonstrates that labelling youths as criminals tends to lead towards a criminal career. In my view, young people are alienated from society, which lowers their self-esteem. In turn, young people often associate with other offenders consequently constructing barriers between education or future employment and are stigmatized by society (Barnardo’s, 2008). The children’s commissioner Maggie Atkinson in the Guardian (2010) believes England and Wales should be brought in line with other European countries, in addition adjusting to efficient methods of dealing with young offenders rather than short punitive alternatives.

I support this claim, as age of criminal responsibility should be set at the age at which children understand the concept of criminality On way that society can form stigmatization is through the media constructing a moral panic by dramatising event. Moral panics have been described as a condition, episode, person or group of persons which emerge to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests (Cohen,1980). In the coverage of Mods and Rockers in 1960’s, Stanley Cohen in Folk Devils and Moral Panics (1980) criticized the media for exaggerating the small act of violence and representing the two subcultures as a threat to society.

Through the medias amplification of the MOD’s and Rockers small act of violence, it resulted in these two groups engaging in additional acts of violence. In the course of the media infuriating these events and fear. I feel the mass media are responsible for society stigmatizing youth within subcultures. The negative terms used to depict young people may also have an effect on their behaviour for example, the phrase ‘siege’ was used by the media to amplify the violence between the MOD’s and Rocker’s. I believe these terms may lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy as subcultures are stereotyped to society.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of prophecy itself, due to positive/negative feed back between belief and behaviour (Merton, R, 1968, pg477). Young people at the transition between childhood and maturity struggle to understand their role in society therefore being viewed negatively can have an vast impact. Young people are easily influenced, relating to the self-fulfilling prophecy I feel the media are again to blame for this behaviour.

As of the 21st century ‘CHAVS’ have been stigmatised predominantly by the media , society viewed CHAVS due to the negative image therefore generalizing any stereotypes to any you person associated with the subculture. For example, ‘CHAVS’ are often poratyed in ‘hoodies’ which essentially linked with violence. The ideology that the media has associated with CHAVS involve indulging in criminal activity which creates a fear amongst society. There is no reasonable justification why society stigmatizes CHAVS, although the media have an influence, I feel that other factors contribute to this subculture being labelled as a threat to society.

Nevertheless, its clear that no individual ‘CHAV’ actually stepped forward to represent the group.. Instead what we see in the media is a series of representations which attempted an essentialist definition of identity with an authentic set of characteristics. Even though society appears to stigmatise youth as illustrated above, it also has a vested interest in youth as advertisers and companies see young people as consumers (Hardy, J, 2010). The mass media targets young people at specified times to promote companies, this has highly developed in years and information ahs become more widely dispersed.

According to hypodermic syringe theory young people are injected with ideas and belief, which suggest what they view in media influence, their behaviour. For example, if a young person views something violent, the are more likely to be violent (Hardy ,J, 2009). On the other hand, young people can be alternatively viewed as producers by the media, due to their disposable income and programs are tailored towards their interest. What’s more is that the Government also provide equal opportunities for young people in education.

Equal opportunities in education means providing equal access to the learning experience regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, religion, social background, and academic ability, and applies to all groups of communities including ethnic minorities, Travellers, Asylum seekers, Faith communities, young offender, and those with disabilities or learning difficulties (Excellent gateway, Unknown) Government policy initiative/legislation give the opportunity for young people who are stigmatized due to their demographics to receives funding dependant on their family income to endure in higher education and empower themselves. In concluding my findings, I believe the proposition is accurate and that young people are stigmatized by society, as addressed throughout in the assignment.

The media has a profound effect on the views of the public and it is evident these views are often biased and misinterpreted furthermore the situation is escalated whereby society believes the underlying problem is with young people For this reason I believe it should be enforced that the media adapt a balanced approach towards young people and highlight positive achievements such as raised a level grades . Although the media has appraised this, its somewhat contradictory as the Government claim it’s a result of exam grades becoming easier. In turn this is shown in a negative light , as it may lower an individuals self esteem and aspirations .

As highlighted throughout , the media initiate Stanley Cohens (1980) coined term ‘moral panic’ by exaggeration of stories, In my view if youth crime was reported based on statistics rather than beliefs society as a while would have a different view on all young people which would eradicate the self fulfilling prophecy attached to the sigma of youth crime. he negative terms used to depict youth should be abolished such as ‘animal’ which describes young people committing a crime. As the criminal age of responsibility is set a ten years old, I feel that young people are not aware of the consequences of their actions therefore should be obliged to any media coverage.

It could be argued that the government need to review policy/legislation towards young people being accepted into society not as ‘outcast’ or ‘hoodlums’ or ‘CHAVS’. I believe that if the media portrayed youth in a more positive manner then the whole society would have a dissimilar view on young people. It is clear that out reach programmes would enable young people ‘at risk’ of being isolated from society to engage in effective developmental process which would prevent further stigmatization. In my opinion relating to crime, I feel it should not be categorised into race and highlighted in the media in that context. For example black on black crime, the association with crime should not generalise to the entire race. This is a false predicament that needs to be addressed thorough legislation.

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  • Date: 16 February 2017

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