“Teens bunk school for sex and vodka party”
“Bunking school kids bonking in the toilet and partying in every room”
“…their house does not need to be turned into a whorehouse”
“Kids gone wild”

These are some of the judgemental words used in the Daily Sun’s “Pupils bust in house of booze!”(21/08/2013, p.1 and 2) to describe a group of teenagers who stepped out of line when they bunked school for a party.

When children and especially teenagers get out of line, it is important that adults and other relevant duty bearers do everything possible to bring back guidance and correction in a way that is in their best interests.

The role of the media, such as the Daily Sun, is to report fairly, accurately, responsibly and to minimise harm. The media should also guard against reporting that perpetuates and influences negative attitudes about children’s level of intelligence, responsibility and capacity to contribute in society. Moreover, according to Media Monitoring Africa’s Editorial Guidelines for Reporting on Children, the media should “play a positive role in portraying children and their rights, and therefore support better attitudes and opinions about children and their rights.”

When children behave in a way that is out of line, there is context to that behaviour, reporting should explain underlying causes of such behaviour and what remedies can be or are being pursued. Children don’t misbehave out of the blue like “wild” animals “out-of-control;” journalist need to interrogate the causes of such behaviour in order to be fair on the children and to maintain the integrity of their profession.

The Daily Sun’s reporting in this case sensationalised troubling behaviour of a group of teenagers which in turn trivialised these issues and worsened the general perception the society has about young people. Media’s approach and tone in situations like this one should be to see children like these as troubled and in need of help.

Although the names and identities of the children involved were not revealed in the story, the mocking and insulting comments in the reporting as well as the sensational and scandalous tone of the article is not in the best interests of children in general.

We hope to see nuanced and responsible coverage of children from the Daily Sun in future.