Media coverage on children under spotlight

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The media has been helpful in the way it has been reporting on children issues over the past 20 years, this is according to Childline’s national office marketing manager, Joan van Niekerk.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with SABC Digital News, Van Niekerk says, “Certainly without the media having reported the way they have reported on children issues, we would not have the changes in law and policy that we have had. It has been helpful in terms of law reporting and assisting us who work in the field of children with the children’s rights.”

Although the media has been helpful, there are still concerns about how it portrays children.

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) says children are often negatively stereotyped in the roles which they occupy in the media reporting- not only as victims but also often as faceless parts of a group and seldom as people in their own right.

The child monitors identify how children are portrayed in stories. The top 5 in 2012 were:

The media needs to make sure that their reporting is accurate

According to MMA: “Most of the stories analysed (82%) during 2013 were considered to have been reported well. Badly reported stories accounted for 18% and child monitors had various reasons for this such as stories not respecting the views of children, not taking their interests into consideration, perpetuating stereotypes and sensational reporting.”

Van Niekerk says the media needs to make sure that their reporting is accurate.


Despite having some journalists being specialised to report on children issues, Van Niekerk says the media still neglects other important issues involving children.

MMA recruits around 80 children aged 11 to 15 from schools in Johannesburg and Cape Town to become media monitors.

Digital News also spoke to Naturena Primary School who are part of Media Monitoring Africa about their views on how media should report about children.

They say media houses need to report positively about children.

Click here for a great interactive tool that summarises the MMA 2013 Report and the findings of that Report about children.

– By Sthembiso Sithole