ICE blogs

February 11, 2012

Children’s rights: Media responsibilities

Mike Jempson reports on a conference which will call on journalists to do more to acknowledge the rights and needs of young people

As the Leveson Inquiry evidence sessions continue, a conference at Bath Spa University will delve into another of the thorny issues that divides practitioners and pundits - the impact of media representations of young people.

One of the submissions to Leveson compiled by the Youth Media Agency and MediaWise, brought together 56 youth and media organisations to urge greater recognition among journalists and the regulators of the rights and needs of young people. Childhood and the media: Images, rights and responsibilities at Bath Spa University on Friday, 20 April, will examine some of these issues in more detail.

Representatives from Facebook and Google will explain their approaches to online safety, and the Press Complaints Commission, the Teenage Magazine Arbitration Panel and the Anti-Bullying Alliance will debate their contrasting roles in tackling the way young people are addressed and portrayed.

Other speakers include Elisabeth Ribbans, Managing Editor of the Guardian and Jim Gamble, former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

In the afternoon an attempt will be made to devise a multi-disciplinary module for social care and journalism courses, and there will also be sessions for young people, teachers and broadcasters.

Conference organiser is David Niven, a former chair of the British Association of Social Workers, who has worked as child protection officer and has a longstanding interest in the complexities of media impact on behaviour and social attitudes. He commented:

‘If we want to effect change we need to engage with the media, but I dislike the way young people are demonised, patronised or marginalised by the media. They need to be included more if we want them to be more responsible as adults.

‘Print, broadcast and online media provide our most important educational influence. They are a window onto the world for perhaps 95 per cent of us. I have witnessed the influence of the media on children and families, for good and ill.’

He warned: ‘Now we have the new challenges of social media on which young people spend huge amounts of time, consume an enormous amount of information, and put themselves at risks which are not fully appreciated. For example, the internet makes it easier for contact to be re-established between abusive parents and children who have been removed from their care.’

Niven still supported the recommendations of Elizabeth Lawson QC, then Chair of the Family Law Bar Association, following the Child Exploitation and the Media Forum he organised with PressWise (now MediaWise) in March 1997. She called for the training of social workers and journalists to include better understanding of each other’s roles and limitations.

‘Not enough has been done to bridge that gap of ignorance and distrust over the last 25 year,’ Niven stressed. ‘We are creating a space in Bath for practitioners, trainers and academics from both sides of the fence to get together. One lasting legacy would be a common module that can really make a difference for the future.’

The event is the fourth in a series of conferences organised by Bath Spa School of Education in association with DNA, most of which have focused on social care issues. They are linked to the development of a 120 credit Certificate of Education in Integrated Child Protection Studies being pioneered at the university.

- Childhood and the media: Images, rights and responsibilities, Friday, 20 April, 2011, Michael Tippett Centre, Bath Spa University, Newton St Loe, Bath BA2 9BN. To book places visit and pay via PayPal or send the address for invoices to

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