COLUMN: Help stop the stereotypes

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Stereotypes are hard things to break, especially when certain groups are stigmatised or misconstrued. 
A good example of this would be the connotations attached to a teenager. Undoubtedly the word will conjure an image of a youngster – or perhaps a group of them congregating outside shopping centres and skate parks, chain smoking and cursing loudly. But, where is the idea of this stereotype founded? The media experience or anecdotes?

It is almost impossible to ignore the judgemental stares and cautious glances we teenagers receive, especially in public places. It often feels as though the older generations automatically assume that we are causing trouble, or looking to mug an innocent bystander, when this is simply not the case. Conversing with friends and peers, this is a notable trend. Some of the kindest teenagers I know have shared how older onlookers have disregarded them, or stared at the ground to avoid eye contact, often prompting said teen to offer a friendly smile to convince these wary people that just because we are in a group larger than five and wear tight jeans – we are not murderers.

I am obviously not accusing all adults of this, neither am I excusing those teenagers who commit petty crimes and do not attempt to better the world. However, the whole concept frustrates me. I’m 18 and a student, yet I am sometimes treated as a deviant by strangers.

I feel the need to convince adults that we are not the drug-addled gangsters we are assumed to be. We will not randomly attack you if you walk past us, and we will offer our help if needed.

I believe that the media is partially to blame for this national fear, as terrifying tales of students burning down buildings, and groups of teenagers vandalising local landmarks are reported but often the heart-warming tales are missed.

Surely instead of fear mongering, the purpose of media should be to celebrate the positive actions of the younger generations, and to encourage repetitions of these positive contributions.

I want to expose the injustice of discrimination and stereotypes, specifically surrounding ageism – although it’s a relevant mantra to apply to every aspect of life. Surely that’s better than the current pessimistic approach.