Communicating with children

Media environments

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© UNICEF/NYHQ2006-1602/Noorani
Sri Lanka: A girl plays with a radio inside her family's tent at Ayesha Girls College.

Children also differ in the access they have to different forms of media, such as books and magazines, radio, television, computers, Internet, music-players and mobile phones. In some war and disaster-affected areas, children may have no access to any form of media whatsoever. Most specifically, the digital inequalities that characterize our world today confront us with a wide variety of challenges: While some children live in media-rich environments and many media converge into a “screen culture” that dominates their lives, others are still deprived of the most basic forms of communication technology that characterize our global world.

In addition, several pilot projects around the world are introducing children to communication technologies like the Internet and mobile phones on an experimental basis. However, the processes of technological and cultural globalization are accelerating and access to various media is becoming more common, even in remote places. But access alone is not enough in making a positive difference for children. It is not only the ability to watch television or play computer games that may benefit them, but the quality of television and computer content to which they are exposed. It is not the access to mobile phones or the Internet that will provide children with opportunities for growth and development, but the uses they are able to make of these media and the nature of the connections they foster. It is not a matter of just developing a puppet show for children, but ensuring that the message is developmentally and culturally appropriate as well as a catalyst for positive change.

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© UNICEF.BANA2010-01332.M. Khan
Barisal: Children enjoy themselves at a playground during their photography workshop

Furthermore, while more advanced technologies are often cited as having an advantage for reaching large numbers of children, in some instances, (for example, urban slum areas, and remote rural areas that lack electrical access or emergencies) lower technologies might be more effective in reaching specific populations. There is a need to develop creative ways to deliver content into disadvantaged situations and effectively reach children who might otherwise be denied access. Simple methods can range from mobile vans and rickshaws delivering video or audio content, to devices that do not even use electricity, such as the bioscope, which uses photographic skills that are advanced by a hand crank.

The key challenges are: How can we reach children and enrich their lives by using media wisely and responsibly for their well-being and healthy development? How can we use different means of communication to make a difference, most specifically to vulnerable and disadvantaged children, in ways that build their resilience, help them survive and thrive, and set them on the trajectory for a better life?


 

 

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