Children who have achieved an award or created something unique deserve their voices heard in media coverage of them. This is so they can share their feelings about their achievements and hopefully, inspire their peers. Unfortunately, this is not the case in an article by The Star titled, “All-girl trio win global robotics competition” (22/07/2022). It is for this reason that Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) has selected this article as a Missed Opportunity.[1]

The article is about a global robotics competition which is an international inter-school technology challenge that brings learners from around the world. It is stated in the article that the “challenge is designed to highlight the best of the Inspired Schools’ student robotics talents across 22 countries spanning five continents”. According to the story, the competition was won by a group of learners aged 11 to 12 years from Reddford House Blue Hills School in Midrand, Johannesburg. A bright photograph of the winners with one of them holding their creation accompanies the article. The photograph’s caption names the children.

In the story, the journalist only accesses Reddford’s head of campus and neglects to access the children. The failure to include children’s voices to stories about the children especially when it is in their best interests goes against best journalism practice when it comes to reporting on children. MMA’s Ethical Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media advise journalists stating, “Children have a right to have their views heard on matters affecting them, so try and include them.”

MMA’s 2021 research on media’s coverage of children showed that only 7% of stories about children in 2021 accessed children for their views. The Star article unfortunately, furthers this negative trend of children’s voices being ignored in the media.

When the media neglects children’s voices, they help perpetuate the stereotype about children are not being capable of speaking for themselves in issues affecting them.  

We would like to encourage The Star to continue reporting on stories which involve children and to remember to add children’s voices especially when in the children’s best interests.

Written by Msizi Mzolo

Edited by Lister Namumba

[1] A missed opportunity is a story in which, for instance, children should have been accessed but are not.