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Backed into a corner: challenging media and policy representations of youth citizenship in the UK

Mejias, Sam and Banaji, Shakuntala (2018) Backed into a corner: challenging media and policy representations of youth citizenship in the UK. Information, Communication and Society. ISSN 1369-118X

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Identification Number: 10.1080/1369118X.2018.1450436


As a group, young people in the UK are represented in media and policy as vulnerable to radicalisation, exclusion or criminality, and as digitally savvy ‘partners’ and service users. These contradictions between media and policy constructions of young people highlight the problematic frames through which young citizens are imagined and represented. In tandem, mainstream UK media and policy documents identify normative institutional forms of participation as primary arenas for youth engagement. Drawing on extended original thematic analyses of media messages and policy documents about and for young people, and on expert interviews with young activists and youth policy-makers, this paper finds that (1) adults and young people who work in the fields of youth activism and policy have far more precise and critical understandings of young people's needs, contexts and diversity as citizens than media representations or policy narratives; that (2) the nuanced perspectives of young people and of these adults is frequently lost or unheard; and that (3) a diverse repertoire of productive forms of youth active citizenship – which are critical, playful and dissenting – are discouraged, excluded, delegitimised or criminalised. By building consensus amongst powerful adults, media representations and instrumental policies regarding youth thus further widen the chasm between ‘accepted’ notions of youth active citizenship and how young people enact citizenship in their everyday lives. Rather than retreating from difficult and contentious politics to protect adult authorities, media and policy narratives should acknowledge these as key levers for the productive and critical development of active young citizens in a strong democracy.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Date Deposited: 03 Jul 2019 15:21
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2021 00:29

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