From my first lecture through until writing this reflective blog, my perception of the media has vastly been changed. Entering this course, I took what the media said as the truth. But now, I’m always questioning the media, looking past what the news corporations say and thinking of why they say it, why they present it in that particular way and whether they are portraying the right side of the story. This new outlook on the media has made me look into how they represent the binge drinking culture that is prevalent in the teenage community.
I wrote several blogs on various topics looking at the media’s participation in countering this problem. The main three concepts I will be focusing on in this reflection is the general view by the media on teenagers in general, social media and popular cultures’ role and also the advertising sector. These three topics interested me because of the large effects that they have on the portrayal of alcohol in relation to teenagers.
To start with, I’d like to focus more on the portrayal of teenagers by the media then get to the binge drinking side of the story. It is astounding how many anti- teenager segments are played on Australia’s current affairs programs, Today Tonight and A Current Affair. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because there are some intense things happening in some teenage communities. However, sometimes the media take their assumptions a little too far, past the truth to pure and unproven speculation. Seemingly innocuous behaviours get turned into suspicious and news worthy actions.
This repeated bending of the true story has created somewhat of a moral panic. These views the media provide for the general public has taken effect, particularly in the ‘vulnerable’ part of the community. It’s not uncommon to see the open disgust by elderly people when they see a group of teenagers wearing hoodies and hanging around the local shopping centre. It is perceived that those teenagers are up to no good because of all the emphasis in news broadcasts about the hoodlums and rag-a-bonds hanging around our streets.
Now on to binge drinking in teenagers, and in particular, the platforms that are used to accommodate these habits. Facebook, the 21st century version of the public sphere. Facebook, in particular, has the prime application for teenagers to organise, advertise and achieve their party goals. Through the events tab, Facebook users send more then 1.4 million event invites every twenty minutes. And yet, Facebook events pages are depicted as scary and out of control places where teenagers organise parties of mass scales. Why? Because a couple of events on Facebook got media attention, one of which was a social experiment and wasn’t even real.
This idea of out of control parties arising from Facebook have spread from some media outlets into popular culture with movies, like Project X, being massive hits in the younger demographic. Even though the media would like to impart on its viewers that teenagers participate in binge drinking through organised parties on Facebook, they largely exaggerate the number of these parties that occur. The media always seem to depict teenagers in a negative light, rather than acknowledging the large majority who restrict their events to private.
Another important aspect surrounding binge drinking in teenagers is also the amount of advertisement for alcohol that comes up on their radars. Sports events, local and on television, creates the atmosphere that drinking is all right. To watch sport and drink is an Australian tradition that goes way back through the decades. There is a predominantly healthy drinking culture in sport but is the culture slowly declining and becoming toxic? Is the media creating a campaign for consumers to always have just one more?
For example, the latest beer ads depicting characters like the man who ‘speaks woman’, or the ‘woman whisperer’. The promotion of one more beer may give teenagers the impression that it is always all right to have one more and also, quite loosely, that women are there to ruin the fun. I have even experienced moments that when a mate’s girlfriend told him he should slow down, he yelled out for the ‘wife whisperer’. The media industry needs to have a more balanced and restrictive approach to their advertisements if they wish to get an effective message out to the public.
Media industries have seemingly gone out of their way to create a moral panic surrounding teenagers, their binge drinking in particular. This raises the question of why? Why create teenagers in such a diminished light? I believe that there are several possibilities as to the extra media attention in the public sphere on teenagers. Perhaps because they are a minority with very little capability to resist and counter argue those claims. Another reason may be that to create a fear amongst the older generations and have them be untrusting of the younger generations through a collective mindset of bad impression. Also, maybe the media want to create doubt in the younger generations ability to run the country effectively, promoting their own hidden agendas built by their media mogul owners. Their reasons, I am sure, are not in the general publics best interests or they would be instilling hope and faith in the future generations. There has been a stigma on young people by the media for decades. This time its binge drinking, last time it was drugs, the time before that it was greed. Teenagers grow up facing adversity from every angle but they get through it and turn into the people who then throw the adversity back in the faces of the youth, a vicious and hypocritical circle.