Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives a MAD[1] to Cape Times for an article titled, “Parents of bullied boy deadlocked with school over man-bun haircut” (06/05/2021) in which a child potentially had to relive a traumatic ordeal while being interviewed by a journalist.

The articleis about an 11-year-old boy whose parents changed his hairstyle to build his self-esteem after reportedly being bullied at school. It is reported that his parents are “deadlocked” with the school over their son’s new hairstyle, a man-bun, which they say “fits well with the cultural sports he has now taken up”. The story reports that the child took up surfing and skateboarding after the parents exposed him to many activities after noticing he had become withdrawn as a result of the bullying.

While we note and commend the journalist for withholding the child’s and his parents’ identities and, indicating that the reason for this is so as to protect the child, we find  issue with the interviewing of the child especially that the article mentions that he has not undergone counselling. After the direct quote from the child, the journalist goes on to mention that the child was emotional as he recalled his ordeal.  

It is very clear that the boy is still traumatised from the bullying, therefore, interviewing him was reckless and irresponsible. It would have been better if there was a counsellor present who would have assessed him prior to the interview to check if he is well enough to speak about his traumatic experience. MMA always urges journalists to only interview children about their traumatic ordeals after the children have undergone counselling and to conduct the interview in the presence of a counsellor who will look out for signs of being retraumatised and stop the interview.

Having children relive their traumatic ordeals has the potential to lengthen their healing process.

According to the Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media, the media, through reporting, must minimise harm and ensure balanced reporting that is in the best interests of the child.][2]

MMA urges the Cape Times and the media in general to be cautious with how they report on children and how they access them for their views. We look forward to seeing stories on children where harm is minimised.

By Kgothatso Baatile Mohale

[1] [1] a MAD is given to the media for reporting on a child recklessly

[2] [3]