Children account for 34% of our population yet only appear in very few news stories.1 If we accept that one element of the role of the media is to “give comfort to the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” it is not only essential that children are covered but that they are covered in a manner that respects their rights.2 Further, as the most marginalised members of our society, it is imperative that they too are treated with dignity and respect. The media can have a significant impact on how society views children and how children view themselves.
Importantly, how children are identified, portrayed, and reported on in the media can have an empowering and positive impact on children. There are, however, risks involved when reporting on children, particularly when such reporting does not safeguard their rights, and instead perpetuates harm, stifles their development and diminishes their self-worth. Telling stories that sensationalise a child’s experiences, undermine, or ignore a child’s responses, or expose children to further risk or harm increases the vulnerability of children and can have a detrimental effect on their development.