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Youth, culture and the mediaBookmark

Learning area: The Arts
Year level: Year 5, Year 6
Country: Australia, India, Japan

In this learning sequence, students examine popular print and online magazines and media broadcasts aimed at youth culture. They analyse the source material from Japan, India and Australia to compare how online media attracts youth, both globally and locally. They construct their own advertisement or commercial to understand the processes required to connect successfully with an audience.

Key inquiry questions

  • What image of youth is portrayed by publications?
  • How are publications, advertisements and commercials constructed to reflect social, cultural and environmental contexts?
  • How similar or different are global youth publications to those produced for a local culture?

Japanese teenagers with bleached hair wearing fabric nose masksJapanese teenagers sporting the latest fashion


Image: Japanese Teenagers by Francisco Diez (CC BY 2.0)

Related resources

Activity 1: Exploring youth culture

In this activity, you will:

  • examine youth today that is labelled with many titles, for example, Gen Y/Z, the iGeneration, or digital natives, that assume that youth today has no cultural boundaries but is seen as a global collective affecting world-wide commerce, communications and societies
  • explore images of youth across a range of popular teenage magazines and websites across Asia.

Key inquiry question: What image of youth is portrayed by media publications across some countries of Asia, including Australia?

About youth culture

  1. Examine the images below of youth culture in Japan and India to:
    • develop a list of reasons why you think the images relate to a particular country
    • discuss your responses with members of your class and see if others have selected the same clues as you.
  2. Read the information about each image and discuss whether the images reflect contemporary 'youth' culture.
  3. Break into groups of four to search and collect images of 'youth' in popular teen magazines and internet sites. The global youth images section in Activity 2 provides some suggested internet sites. Examine the images and list some common elements and those that are different. Use these questions to discuss how the magazine are persuasive, for example:
  4. Who is the magazine's audience?
  5. How is the magazine designed to attract and persuade the reader?
  6. Are social and cultural symbols used in the magazine to attract this audience? If so, how?
  7. Use your answers as a guide and create an outline for a persuasive magazine article that incorporates one of these images but is directed to Australian youth. You will need to consider your audience, the type of language that relates to you and how the article relates to your interests.
  8. Share your outline with the rest of the class and discuss the effectiveness of the ideas.
Youth culture in Japan
Japanese youth fashion magazines

Japanese fashion magazines like Popteen, whether online or in print, are very popular. Girls used in fashion shots are often not professional models; in fact, their names and very ordinary occupations are often listed next to their photographs.

The magazine Egg which first appeared in the late 1990s, gained popularity because it used only amateur models. The fact that amateur models are used in these magazines makes the fashion and the lifestyle represented seem more realistic and achievable.

Other fashion magazines use a combination of professional and amateur, Japanese and foreign models. 

The magazine layout

Magazine articles are usually brief, set in small text boxes, and the images and advertisements dominate the page. The magazines focus on products that their readers would be interested in buying.

Brand-name fashion accessories and designer labels, especially French and Italian, have been popular in Japan since the 1980s. Three-quarters of all Louis Vuitton sales are made to Japanese people, either in Japan or in another country. Other popular European names are Chanel, Christian Dior, Hermes, Gucci and Courreges. 

The changing image of Japanese teenagers

Young women like those in Popteen represent two controversial developments in Japanese popular culture: materialism and female assertiveness.

The word 'gal' came into use in the mid to late 1990s to describe girls who do not conform to the traditional pattern of Japanese feminine behaviour. 'Gals' are outspoken and fun-loving; and they want to enjoy their money rather than save it for later. After graduating from high school, many go into freelance work. This gives them the freedom to shop, eat out and go to karaoke or dance clubs. They do not use traditional demure and polite forms of speaking, either: 'gals' use direct, in-your-face language.

They represent the new face of Japan. The movement has been highly criticised. Adult commentators have said that the materialism and their assertive behaviour symbolised by the 'gal' signifies the breakdown of Japan's social fabric.

Japanese urban entertainment guides

Apart from fashion magazines, urban entertainment guides are very popular among young people in Japan. The pioneer in this area of publishing was PIA, which began in the 1970s.

PIA publishes weekly film, concert, museum and gallery information and schedules, including maps of how to get to places. It also features short articles and guides to shops, restaurants and amusement parks. Another successful magazine of this type is Tokyo Walker.

Adapted from Voices and Visions from Japan, 2003 © Commonwealth of Australia.

Youth culture in India
The impact of globalisation on young people in India

Globalisation and the opening up of the Indian economy have introduced Indian society to new cultural and social norms. However, this process has not eradicated traditional Indian values and beliefs. Young people in particular want the best of both worlds.

While for a casual gathering they might choose to wear jeans and perhaps a DKNY T-shirt, for more formal occasions they prefer traditional dress: the girls will wear saris, while the boys don a sherwani. Similarly, before an important examination young people may perform a puja (prayer) with great devotion and take prasad, but afterwards they will eat out and go dancing.

And, while they may choose to marry for love, they are equally eager for their parents to accept their choice of partner and give their blessings to the marriage. 

Family life: Traditional vs modern

In a traditional Indian family, young people had minimal say in either the running of the household or their own affairs; their finances were controlled by their parents, who also made decisions on education and even personal matters such as marriage.

Young girls were largely confined to the home, which was the major place of recreation for young people of both sexes. 

While urban India today represents a combination of the traditional and the modern, in a number of areas modern values and practices are taking over.

Materialism is increasing; young people today understand the value of money and believe that India must become part of the global marketplace to ensure its future economic success.

Young people in India have emerged as a significant target for marketers. Not only do they have disposable income but also, in contrast to the situation a few decades ago, their parents now spend generously on them.

Manufacturers are targeting this new market, and new trends in fashion, culture and lifestyle are emerging.

The increasing reach of satellite television and the growth in Internet usage has helped to facilitate the spread of these new trends among young people.

Adapted from Voices and Visions from India, 2004  © Commonwealth of Australia

Activity 2: Selling youth culture

In this activity, you will:

  • investigate multinational companies that use global identification of their brand demonstrating cultural variations for different countries
  • examine locally produced content that explicitly addresses the individual and connects with youth consumerism.

Key inquiry question: How are publications, advertisements and commercials constructed to reflect social, cultural and environmental contexts?

Teenage fashion

  1. Read the information provided about global youth teenage fashion magazines and make a note of the key points.
  2. Discuss as a group how magazines are becoming global in the way they pitch their advertising towards the youth of today.
  3. Consider what you think today's youth in Australia want to buy.
  4. As a class, develop a list of products that you feel are highly sought after, why they are appealing and how they are currently marketed in Australia.
  5. Break into groups and search the internet for more examples of print advertisements or filmed commercials that are popular in Japan and India today.
  6. Each student in the group should find one print or commercial example from each country and share these with the group.
  7. Note that the advertisements are generally similar to ones you would view in Australian media. There are some with slight differences depending on societal moral boundaries.
  8. Collectively order these examples according to audience (age, gender and genre).
  9. As a group, determine how each example uses persuasive devices and symbols to connect with audience for example, humour, sound, animation and list what they are.
  10. List any elements that you feel are culturally constructed and why this may be so.
  11. Compare and contrast the information you have gathered so far. Do your findings support the information provided on the right?
  12. As a group, select one online TV commercial or print advertisement to adapt and reconstruct for an Australian audience. You can present your adaptation in a number of ways:
    • Perform the commercial to the whole class or show a filmed, edited and screened version.
    • Reconstruct a print advertisement as a magazine layout using annotations to explain selection of colours, type of font, space, pattern, style of layout and format size.
    • Create a website advertisement as an e-Zine, online catalogue or digital advertising banner.
  13. Share your presentations and rank them against the persuasive devices you outlined in number 9.


Image: Mamma Mia. りんご娘のライブ コンサート by Glenn Waters ぐれん in Japan.  (CC BY 2.0)

Activity 3: Constructing youth culture

In this activity, you will:

  • devise an advertisement to sell a product to the youth in Japan, India and Australia
  • create one advertisement that will connect with audiences in each of these countries
  • design the advertisement to be culturally appropriate, memorable and something that surprises and intrigues the audience to listen or look again.

Key inquiry question: What are some of the universal elements used to sell products to youth across cultural boundaries?

Create an advertisement

  1. Allocate roles and responsibilities for the production of your advertisement/commercial to each student in the group. These roles include copywriter/scriptwriter, designer/s (costume, make up, special effects, sound, lighting) and director/publisher. Develop a process and schedule for delivery of each component.
  2. Storyboard your ideas and make sure the message is clear and concise. Select elements that promote your intended message but are also culturally appropriate.
  3. Make it memorable:
    • Think about how you will use colours, costumes, images, text, lighting, space, sound, environment, and personalities.
    • If you are creating a print advertisement consider the thumbnail sketch options for the spatial division of the advertisement, taking into consideration the relationship between image, text and space.
    • Consider how the page will be balanced by colour, text font and size.
    • Consider the orientation of text and how people will read it.
  4. Rehearse and time the performance (30–60 seconds), edit it and then film or capture it. Make sure you checklist the safe use of all equipment and technologies. Produce a couple of ideas as options for the print design. Canvas your audience to see which they prefer before developing it into a fully designed advertisement.
  5. Share your completed tasks with the rest of the class. Evaluate the reaction of the class to gauge whether you have addressed the criteria fully. Upload your work and create a class blog for feedback from other students on ways to improve it.

Activity 4: Reflection

In this activity, you will use the construction of your television commercial/website/advertisement to evaluate and reflect on what you have learnt about about forms of media that are dominant in a youth market across Asia, including Australia.

  1. Reflect on the process you used to develop an advertisement/commercial of your own.
  2. Share your thoughts with the rest of the class.
  3. Evaluate how your knowledge about the power of persuasive techniques used in youth magazines was reflected in the media works you produced.

In this learning sequence, students examine popular print and online magazines and media broadcasts aimed at youth culture. They analyse the source material from Japan, India and Australia to compare how online media attracts youth, both globally and locally. They explore how and why media persuades and how multi-mediated messages reflect social, cultural and environmental contexts. They construct their own advertisement or commercial to understand the processes required to connect successfully with an audience.

Activity 1: Exploring youth culture

Assist students to explore and analyse the selected 'images' so that they become familiar with the background information about the youth culture in Japan and India. Through questioning, establish what they already know about the countries and share their experiences and knowledge. Provide an opportunity for students to focus on their own purchasing power; what they buy and why; access to media sources, particularly online and print publications, TV, film and radio and attitudes to work, study and leisure.

Activity 2: Selling youth culture

Provide students with information about advertising and how media persuades. Examine examples of print, television and online media as multimodal texts (text, image and sound). In media arts, design and layout (text font styles, size, colour) will capture the viewer's attention and convey meaning through symbolic codes. Look, as a class at different websites from major department stores, and online fashion distributors to compare similarities and differences. Investigate current online advertisements from Japan and India.

Activity 3: Constructing youth culture

Have students work in small groups of four to six students and assign particular tasks for each group. They should find a collection of websites, TV commercials, and print advertisements and construct a list of characteristics common to all and another of differences. As a class, evaluate the 'good' and 'bad' aspects of design in each format.

As a group, students then design and construct their own 'advertisement' that would appear in a youth magazine, on TV, or a website. The group tasks can vary by directing them to a certain type of youth market, either culturally specific, gender specific, or age specific.

Activity 4: Reflection

Students use the construction of their television commercial/website/advertisement to evaluate and reflect on their knowledge and understanding about forms of media that are dominant in a youth market across Asia, including Australia, as well as skills and understanding about digital/ print/ broadcast media that persuades.

Useful websites


It is recommended that teachers preview websites to ensure they are suitable for their students prior to use in class. Content accessed via these links is not owned or controlled by Asia Education Foundation and is subject to the terms of use of the associated website.

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