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Children and the media

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Children in media production

A major impediment to involving children and young people in media production is that it means bringing them into a potentially hazardous workplace. If it is a busy place with lots of people, movement and equipment it will pose particular hazards for them. Natural curiosity and the fact that such venues are not designed for people of lower than average adult height could mean that they are put at risk of harm.

The working culture within high-pressure media institutions is not child-friendly, and what should be a rewarding experience could be both bewildering and risky for all concerned unless careful preparation has been undertaken. Often the real fear is that children might damage expensive or sensitive equipment, rather than the other way round. There are also insurance implications.

There are cost implications to some of the safety measures that are required, but most hazards to children are likely to be hazards to adults too. Making a workplace safe for children should be an added guarantee that it is also safe for adults.

Planning ahead is the key to safe participation of children in any workplace. The following will help as a starting point, but media initiatives will need to draw up their own guidelines to ensure that everyone is put at minimum risk. Many media initiatives will have drawn up their own in-house guidelines, but very often such matters are dealt with on an ad hoc basis. By sharing examples of best practice, industry standards can be established, promoted and monitored. The MAGICmedia section of this site has examples of good practice.

• Spend time preparing the children, away from the site.

• When the children are on site make sure they know about the risks involved, and where they can go for help. Make sure they have clean toilet facilities, access to an appropriately sized room where they can relax and opportunities to take refreshments.

• Most important of all make sure that at least one appropriate adult - whom they know and to whom they go for help or advice - is available at all times.

• Those responsible for the management of children's involvement should ensure that they have checked the health and safety regulations as they apply to children. They need to ensure that the children and their carers have been provided with simple, clear explanations of safety arrangements at the work site, and devise simple means of checking that the children really understand them - for example, by taking part in an emergency evacuation exercise.

• Those who work at the venue need to be informed that children may be present in certain places and at certain times, and have an opportunity to discuss the implications of this, for them and the children.

• Those working directly with the children should be operating according to guidelines that have been thoroughly discussed and agreed.

• Most important of all, checks need to be carried out to ensure that the children will not have contact with inappropriate adults - for example, those who have drink or drug problems, or convictions for anti-social behaviour.

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