Communicating with children

Communication rights

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© UNICEF CEE/CIS 20011 /I. Evdokimova

This document is specifically concerned with the role communication plays in improving the lives of children worldwide. How can communication help children, especially the most disadvantaged and vulnerable, to survive, develop and thrive? How can communicating with children bridge generational and cultural divides and help reach the goals of social development?

The rights of children, as delineated in the CRC, include a variety of communication rights: the right to be heard and to be taken seriously; to free speech and to information; to maintain privacy; to develop cultural identity; and to be proud of one’s heritage and beliefs. Yet, whether girls and boys live in deprived and resource-poor societies, or in overwhelmingly commercialized and profit-driven ones, their voices need to be heard and taken seriously; the possibility for expressing their needs and opinions and their access to important information should be expanded. Communication efforts need to respect children’s privacy and dignity and foster their self-esteem and confidence. Where efforts are made to provide children a “voice”, it must be more than a token attempt that reflects the perspective of adults: it should support their holistic development or problem-solving skills.

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© Deaf People Can Do Anything But Hear, UNICEF China, 2003

Rather than thinking of children as little people who are in the process of becoming fully grown adults, many global child development experts suggest that we think of them as full human beings in their own right: We need to fully recognize children, in each stage of their development, as having unique needs and skills, as well as personal voices that deserve to be listened to with respect and empathy.

For example, it is not enough to have children appear in television or radio programmes, book illustrations, posters, or another forms of media in order to make the materials “child friendly”. Messages need to be tailored for the specific child audience, and have to include their needs, perspectives and points of view in order to relate to them in effective and helpful ways.

The accumulated knowledge from years of studying children and media demonstrates that children are active users of media: They react to, think, feel and create their own meanings out of them. They bring to their media encounters a host of predispositions, abilities, desires and experiences. They watch television or listen to stories in diverse personal, social and cultural circumstances that also influence what they get out of the experience. We must never assume that what we as adults need and take from media (such as television programmes, magazine articles, oral stories, card games, posters) is the same as what children will get out of it.



 

 

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