Negative stereotypes 'hurting teenage job prospects'

Students celebrating their A-Level results Many teenagers think they are too rarely portrayed positively in the media

More than two thirds of 14-17-year-olds believe negative portrayals of teenagers in the media are affecting their job prospects, a survey suggests.

About 80% of teenagers questioned also believed they were more engaged with social issues than their predecessors.

The think tank, Demos, which commissioned the survey, said the findings "shatter misconceptions of disengaged teenagers".

More than 1,000 14-17-year-olds from England and Northern Ireland took part.

Demos said false stereotyping of young people in the media and wider society was having a negative effect on both their self-esteem and employment opportunities.

'Yobs' and 'crime'

It said four in five teens felt they were unfairly represented in the media and, of these a vast majority - 85% - said this was affecting their chances of getting a job.

Demos said its survey tested "attitudes and perceptions" of teenagers. It did not investigate the views of employers.

It said it had also analysed six UK newspapers over the past 10 years and found that the words most commonly associated with "teenagers", "youth" and "young people" were "binge-drinking", "yobs" and "crime".

Tom Daley Young Olympians are an example of young people portrayed positively, says the Society of Editors

Last month, McKinsey management consultants reached a different conclusion, blaming high levels of youth unemployment across Europe on a skills shortage rather than a lack of jobs or any reluctance to employ young people.

It said 27% of employers had left "entry-level" jobs unfilled because they could not find people with the necessary skills.

The European commissioner for education and youth, Androulla Vassiliou, said there was a mismatch between what education systems were delivering and what employers needed.

Case study

Becky Brunskill

Becky Brunskill, 18, member of Youth Parliament for Liverpool, says:

"At the moment, teenagers feel like they're in the minority really. They are always the ones to get bad press. The young people out there are doing good things for the community, but there's always the stabbing, the hoodie or gun crime that's always on the news. But we're not all like that, it's only a few.

"We need to show businesses and the media that young people are passionate and want to get involved and make a change. There is always negative press. You see on the news, say five times out of the seven days that it's on there's a bad story about young people, so maybe they're a bit put off because maybe they think we'll bring trouble to their business. But we won't.

"Working for the National Citizen Service, the Youth Parliament and the British Youth Council, I'm a much more confident person and I want to go into a business and give them my skills that I've got."

In a recent opinion piece, City & Guilds Group chief executive Chris Jones gave a similar assessment, saying most employers believed young people did not understand what businesses were looking for.

Asked if youth unemployment was down to structural change in the labour market and a skills shortage rather than negative portrayals in the media, the author of the Demos report, Jonathan Birdwell, said: "Those are absolutely valid points and important factors to consider.

"But there is this perception that they [teenagers] are negatively portrayed. Those messages have an impact on how they perceive their job opportunities.

"The fact that these perceptions are so widespread among young people has to have an impact."

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said young people "should remember that news media generally reports bad news because bad news is the unusual stuff".

He said if teenagers looked at media coverage more widely they would see "a much more balanced picture" with prominent positive reporting of high-achieving young people including A-level students, Olympic athletes and footballers, as well as young soldiers who had served the UK abroad.

No political engagement

The Demos survey also asked teenagers about social issues and found that 80% of those asked believed they were more concerned with social issues than previous generations of young people.

Socially engaged teenagers

  • 87% believe social media is effective in driving change
  • 38% have signed a petition online
  • 29% have used Facebook or Twitter to raise awareness of a cause
  • 19% have donated money online

Source: Demos

In a parallel survey for Demos by SchoolZone, two thirds of UK teachers agreed that teenagers today were more socially engaged than their own generations had been.

But the survey suggested social engagement did not translate into direct political engagement.

Only 10% of teens questioned saw politicians as agents of positive change, while 60% said they saw charities and social enterprises in that way.

"Teenagers are motivated to make a difference in their community but the approach they take is radically different to previous generations," said Mr Birdwell.

In the survey, 87% of teenagers said social media was an effective way to give momentum to social issues.

Mr Birdwell said: "They do not rely on politicians and others to solve the world's problems, but instead roll up their sleeves and power up their laptop and smartphone to get things done through crowd-sourced collaboration.

"They value bottom-up social action over top-down politics, and social enterprise over government bureaucracy.

"The next generation could be the most active citizens we have seen in a generation."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 743.

    The sort of teenager who responds to such a survey are likely to be a minority group!

  • rate this

    Comment number 742.

    241. omegaman
    Thanks for the clarification.

    Keep up the good work, you've got stuff to say and a mind of your own.

  • rate this

    Comment number 741.

    There is little wrong with kids that a real dose of 'proper work' ie paid & full time. cannot cure. While employers only want ready made workers, trained and with experience, the youngsters get a raw deal. More real apprenticeships which did not make them redundant as soon as they reach the age for an adult wage and realistic expectations by employers would be of enormous benefit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 740.

    739.Random Advice

    When the sons and daughters of the poorest in Asia are better educated that the children of the middle classes in this country

    == even the poorest chinese parents won't shout to their children under 18: go out and find a job! but would do if they stop studying

  • rate this

    Comment number 739.

    When the sons and daughters of the poorest in Asia are better educated that the children of the middle classes in this country then even the thickest politician should realise where the problem lies, and it is not with the kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 738.

    Excuse me BBC, in the first photo, are they teenagers who are waving checks or something else? Seems like they do not have any trouble to find a job, so happy, particularly the one on the right

  • rate this

    Comment number 737.

    651.Rick "Teenagers to the media are either yobs or high achievers, criminals or heroes. The media does nothing to celebrate those young people in between"
    Of course they don't...who wants to read about a teenager who came home, did their homework, tidied their room, read a book and went to bed at 10pm? No simply wouldn't sell papers/magazines/ad space on websites.

  • rate this

    Comment number 736.

    It won't just be the media hurting the job prospects of the UK youth, they will have to compete with all the young people in the EU as well.

    Also wages are/will be driven down further with the glut of young labour coming from the EU, and maybe Turkey and the Ukraine in the future..

  • rate this

    Comment number 735.

    When the current youth were growing up they were the most heavily targeted child generation ever.

    Social media wanted them, the films, music and games industry wanted them. It was the fashion to dress the little mites up in designer clobber. We treated them like adults from birth

    *WE* spoiled them, *WE* mollycoddled them, *WE* gave them the sense of superiority that we now condemn them for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 734.

    The teenagers are right....they have been the target for a lot of unjustified and unsubstantiated criticism that has,without doubt adversely affected their job prospects. All sectors of the media have been guilty of lazily tapping into stereotyping by unscrupulous employers' excuses for their migrant workers. Brit born kids are the only group that nobody has defended , shame on us all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 733.

    @722.freedomorbust, what you mean is that the older and more experienced we get the less likely we are to bend over for the employer to shaft us with the 'take it for the company' line.

    I've been in the situation working 50-60 hours a week, yet when I started to grumble and work normal hours, my boss and his cronies started to isolate me as a troublemaker.

  • rate this

    Comment number 732.

    Was sat, like, on a flight, like, last week and, like, all I could hear was, like, the overloud voice of, like, two teens behind me, and like, their inane conversation, nearly drove me, like, nuts. At one stage I was, like, tempted to turn round, and, like, challenge them to, like, not use the word "like" every other word.

    But then I paused and smiled at the thought of their first job interview.

  • rate this

    Comment number 731.

    If you continually feed kids from a trough you cannot complain when they act like animals. The media should show humanity a little more respect and get away from political down-sizing all of humankind at every opportunity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 730.

    My nephews are teenagers. One is an apprentice engineer at a very respected car firm, the other going into the family farm. They're still teens, they can do daft/insensitive things but they are nothing like the stereotype and they are not afraid of working hard to get on in life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 729.

    Too many comments are saying 'real jobs', what are 'real jobs', for me they are jobs that pay money. If you lack education the best you can hope for is clerical shops etc, jobs that give you no training and just have low incomes for life, better than nothing. Not everyone can aspire to high professional life, medicine, law, teaching, accountancy, know your limits and hope you can get any job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 728.

    Can anyone reconcile;

    We accept that an extreme minimum wage of £100p/h would destroy jobs, especially for young raw inexperienced teens... Why will no job harm occur when minimum wage levels are only slightly raised?

    If a fire can boil water, wouldn't a small fire heat it up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 727.

    It's quite discouraging to see how many subscribe to generalist perceptions people be they young, middle aged or whatever. Surely you look at the person in front of you and what they can offer. I've worked with some challenging people but never met anyone who doesn't basically want recognition of and acknowledgement for what they can do. Maybe a few managers wanting an easy ride on here?

  • rate this

    Comment number 726.

    It is so much more a complicated and unstable environment today than in my youth.
    So many youth of today have little hope of ever finding a rewarding career either emotionally or financially.
    The media is not the obstacle it is the reality that there are fewer and fewer jobs providing reliable, stable and economically viable income.
    It's a tough old place out there now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 725.

    "87% of teenagers said social media was an effective way to give momentum to social issues."

    Just trying to think of what social issues have catapulted to the top of the governments agenda thanks to a bunch of teenagers tapping away on their smartphones and posting selfies on Facebok. And indeed the Government's response...

  • rate this

    Comment number 724.

    @ 722.freedomorbust
    "The ones that whinge and moan, and are rude, and expect their employer to bend over backwards for them are ALWAYS middle aged."

    That's because as we get older we start to regress to infancy. Middle aged people are just teenagers on the way back down.

    So we can still blame the youth. Hooray! The Status Quo maintained!


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