12 Apr 2011

Nine out of ten young people in Northern Ireland have been discriminated against because of their age.

85% of young people believe that they are judged negatively because of their age, said the Commissioner for Children and Young people, Patricia Lewsley, today.

A research paper released by the Commissioner reveals that young people frequently experience discrimination due to negative stereotyping in shops, through the media, and in their own communities.

“Rather than being safe and welcoming places for young people, too many young people are facing isolation and rejection by their communities,” said Ms Lewsley. “This survey found that most young people have been told to ‘move on’ when talking with friends in the street, and that this has a profoundly negative impact on them. The young people wrote of feeling ‘unwanted’ by society and that they had ‘nowhere to go’.

“This treatment of young people must be challenged. Government must focus upon overcoming age-related discrimination in our communities, shops and media.

“Four in five of the young people surveyed felt that the media portrayal of young people was ‘mostly negative’. Today I also challenge the media to think again about how it portrays young people, so that it does not feed the discrimination against young people.

“I am pleased that in response to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s recommendation, the UK Government and three devolved governments in November 2009 made ‘Addressing the negative portrayal of young people in the media’ one of their four priorities.

"Young people are an integral part of our society. Evidence shows the vast majority positively participate within their communities, contributing to the arts, sports and achieving well at school.

“Government must make sure communities are safe, inclusive and that children’s’ rights are protected and produce appropriate strategies that reflect this."

On Friday (15th April) the consultation on the Community Safety Strategy will end. Ms Lewsley will publish her response the same day, calling on the Executive to:

  • Ensure a more positive focus on children and young people
  • Stop the use of ASBOs against children
  • Make greater efforts to overcome community divisions and address the threats they pose for children and young people

Members of the Commissioner's Youth Panel have been campaigning to address the issue of negative stereotyping. More details are available here.

Notes for editors