On the Public Shaming of Underage Persons

Every morning, I scan through my Facebook newsfeed and Twitter timeline for the best news story of the day. For me, and I imagine countless others, the day does not begin until you are able to pull up a news story about a courageous person who saved 10 tree-stranded cats while running a half marathon or the grandmother who defended herself against a group of robbers who tried to steal her purse. I can't lie; I live to secure a seat on the train in the morning and read nonsensical, captivating stories during my commute to work. Silly, random news appeals to many people (myself included) who want a lighthearted start to their day and, within its appropriate platform, it has a purpose.

There is nothing wrong with indulging in a feature that has little moral bearing in society. If it makes you happy, consume it. Talk about it with your coworkers. Share the photograph your disgruntled boss. Forward it to your family. That's what it's made for.

However, if there is one thing I must urge you consumers of the media to do, it is this: do not support or share news stories that negatively portray underage people.

It saddens me to even have to make this plea, but given our society's over-the-top, inauthentic quest for transparency and "gotcha" media reporting, it is absolutely necessary. Reputable news media outlets, along with historically less reputable outlets, have taken a serious liking to spreading negative images and videos involving young people (notably, young people of color) or reporting stories about young people with less-than-adequate contextual information.

In the past week alone, I'm not sure if I could count on both hands how many times I've seen a problematic title and/or image of a young person that was initially produced and disseminated by major news source. I understand the importance of disseminating a variety of news stories and I get that the Big Dogs have bills to pay (and these stories probably bring in large audiences), but can we stop supporting the exploitation underage people within the "gotcha" media, please?

Youth deserve our protection more than anyone, and the current landscape of media reporting does little to ensure that the livelihoods of underage persons are protected. News media outlets seem to be so concerned with appealing to the psyche of yesteryear where "kids did as they were expected" that they disseminate stories that have serious moral and legal implications. Media outlets literally and figuratively perpetuate the public shaming of our young people and we have to put an end to it.

Major and minor media outlets have a huge responsibility in ensuring adequate and appropriate depiction of our young people, but we consumers also have a huge role as well. As a society, we can decide not to consume or share articles, images, and videos that unjustly depict young people. We can write back to writers or leave tasteful, disapproving comments within the appropriate forum.

We have the power and ability to make major media sources recognize the dangers and problems of their reporting on matters and events concerning underage persons.