Impact of Media Portrayal of Unaccompanied Minors

In the last several months there has been a great deal of attention in the media to the influx of unaccompanied minors coming into the U.S. from Central American countries. The media coverage of the crisis largely consisted of images that depicted Central America as violent and dangerous. The intention of showing these images was probably to show that the children had a just cause for fleeing their homes, however they were interpreted differently. Many viewed these pictures provided by the media and saw them as a threat to American security and reacted by demanding an increase in border control.

Gabriella Sanchez discusses these issues in her article “A Tale of Many Borders”. By portraying the migrant children through the violence they are running from, the media gives them a very specific meaning. Instead of viewing the crisis as a humanitarian one, many view it as a matter of national security with the violence in Central America as the threat. Others take the opposite view and have adopted what Sanchez calls a “paternalistic” attitude. By writing her article, Sanchez hoped to open up a much needed critical discussion of the crisis since the current paternalistic discussion does nothing to solve the deeper issues at hand.

This issue exposes the power of the media in shaping both public opinion and meaning making. The images that the media chooses to show the public go a long way toward creating opinions and feelings in the audience. Since we are living in an age where technology is such an essential part of how we learn about these controversial issues, it is becoming increasingly important to understand how people respond to and perceive media. The study of Anthropology could be useful in doing this since an understanding of how a culture thinks and perceives images could help with deciding what images to use in the media to best portray an issue fairly.