The article in the Daily Sun (27/09/2010 p.3) “He’s the Spin King” is one to be mad about. A Grade 7 student is praised by the Daily Sun for driving a car in a very reckless manner. According to the newspaper, this is called “spinning” which means that the driver burns rubber off the tyres of the car while driving it around in a circular motion.

The boy is portrayed in the article as a hero, however this stunt was extremely dangerous. Despite the fact that this child was “spinning” a car at a public event, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is not even sure it was legal for the child to carry out this stunt as he is too young to drive. It was also irresponsible of the event’s organisers to promote a dangerous stunt involving a child.

The tone of the article suggests that the boy’s actions were something he should be proud of. That this stunt involved a young child, who is not fully grown, was acknowledged by the writer: “Through the thick clouds of smoke, they saw a young boy at the wheel-just tall enough to see through the windscreen.”

Despite the clear risks and dangers involved in a child performing a stunt like this, Daily Sun chose to portray this child as the “Spin King”. The caption on a photo of the boy also stated that there were “young passengers” in the car when the child was “spinning”. This boy was risking the lives of other children, and those who portray his actions in a positive light risk encouraging other children to perhaps copy him and engage in similarly dangerous driving stunts. There was no indication or suggestion anywhere in the article that this act was unsafe or potentially against the law.

Newspapers and journalists need to be very aware of the power of what they publish. They have the power to suggest to people that certain behaviour is ok, commendable or to be encouraged. This article could be interpreted as encouraging young children, not only to drive, but to participate in dangerous stunts, and that makes MMA very MAD indeed!

Here’s what our child media monitors had to say:

“The story doesn’t show that they interviewed the child”  Matlakala from Troyeville Primary School

“I don’t like the headline it is exaggerating, why call him a king when there are other better drivers” Rabby from Troyeville Primary School

“There is a danger of other children to try and do the same” Michelle from Troyeville Primary School