Treatment of Children in the media

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If you're under 18 and would like to share your opinions about the media, use this survey

Media Tip Sheet

Download the tip sheet which contains tips on how the media can play their part

Download Draft Guidelines

Download the draft guidelines for treatment of children and young people in the media


NAPCAN is interested in the way that the whole community plays a part in building safer, more nurturing environments for children.

This includes how children are portrayed and treated by the media.

This is not merely a case of encouraging the media to use the correct words or terminology; more broadly, the way children and young people are represented in the media mirrors their status and treatment in the general community.

Overall, NAPCAN advocates for the media to:

  • Take a balanced and sympathetic view of children and young people
  • Include the voices of children when presenting on issues in which children have some interest
  • Consider a child’s best interest in stories featuring children – ask yourself ‘what if this was my child?’
  • Report on child abuse and neglect in a manner that is helpful rather than harmful, using appropriate terminology.


What are the Guidelines for the treatment of children and young people in the media?

The draft guidelines are a summary of issues that have been of particular interest to NAPCAN in recent years. The aim is to begin collating the issues and ideas on this topic in order to develop a set of tools for use by the media and other organisations who deal with children and young people.

This discussion paper covers the broad topics of:

  • How children are represented generally in the media
  • The rights of individuals in the media
  • How child abuse and neglect is covered in the media


NOTE: The topic of children in the media is expansive. This draft discussion paper is by no means a comprehensive coverage of all the issues. While we have deliberately kept this discussion broad at this stage, we would be very interested in building on these ideas to develop guidelines for specific groups of children, in partnership with specialised organisations and reference groups.

Together, we can create a positive framework for making sure our young people are valued and heard, and that topics relating to child abuse and neglect are treated respectfully and constructively.

If you have an interest in this topic, please take a look at the draft guidelines and let us know your thoughts. In particular, we’d love to include young people and media representatives in the conversation.



We asked children and young people about their opinions on their portrayal in the media. Here are some of the things they said:

“I think young people aren’t often portrayed in the media and whenever they are portrayed, they only show young people at opposite ends of the spectrum. This meaning either extremely negative or extremely outstanding. I believe that this makes young people feel unrelated to the young people portrayed in the media, feeling either better behaved or useless.”

“Some young people can be portrayed extremely well, for their sporting efforts or what they’ve done to help the community etc. On the other hand they can be portrayed poorly, being ‘technology addicted’ or ‘gaming addicted’.”

“Sometimes it’s ok but in things like bullying or social media they make it out as if we’re all stupid and irresponsible.”

“The portrayal of young people in the media in my eyes is misunderstood and false in a broad sense. I believe they focus more on the negative side of our lives and the struggles we face as they are a entirely different set of struggles than adults, even though either cannot be compared to each other. All-in-all I believe the media portray a twisted and unrealistic view of our perspectives and our lives.”

“I think young people are portrayed reasonably in the media. If something is being reported on with regards to young people, it’s usually necessary.”

“I think like every societal group there are factions that are presented in both positive and negative ways. News outlets often present the youth population with a renewed way of looking at society’s issues and I think we should be presented more often, as we are the future generation.”

“I would like the media to be more positive when representing young people and ask their educated opinions on issues that relate to them also on some bigger issues as the young people are the future of our country.”

“Maybe just give them a fair chance to actually explain themselves and not jump to conclusions.”

“I’d like the change how the news always tends to show young people’s activities as bad and that what is happening in the young person community is worse then what past generations have down and the incorrect comparison between generations.”

“I would like to see young people treated as young adults and get their opinion voiced as an older person’s would.”

“I believe a young person should have a say and prevision over some aspects of what is released to the public and they have the ability to suggest changes or recommend additions to keep a stigma going that young people do take pride in how they’re being portrayed to their nation.”

“I would like to see young people seen as the bright and intuitive people they are and as the future leaders of the world.”

“Ask for young people’s comment when they’re being reported on.”

“More diverse representations with focus on multiple racial/socioeconomic groups without the enforcement of negative narratives.”

“Rather than questioning others’ opinions, we should forge a new identity and show to society that we are capable in voicing our own opinions whilst respecting the wisdom and past experiences of the adult population.”