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Communicating with children

Children and media

© UNICEF/HTIA2010-00318/Ramoneda
Haiti: Katushka, 17, watches television with other children at an interim care centre, as she waits to be reunited with her family.

The vast scholarly work on the role of media in children’s lives suggests that media (such as books, newspapers, magazines, television, radio, cinema, computers, Internet, mobile phones) serve today as one of the most central socializing agents, informing behaviours, attitudes and world views (5). They are the central storytellers of our time, serving as an array of sources of information and entertainment for all ages in all cultures around the globe.

Media are often treated by both scholars and the general public in dualistic ways. On the one hand, we think of them as very positive. There are high hopes and great expectations for media to enrich children’s lives, change unhealthy behaviours, stimulate imagination and creativity, widen education and knowledge, encourage inclusion and tolerance, narrow social gaps and stimulate development and civil society. On the other hand, there is also great anxiety associated with media’s ability to numb the senses, inhibit imagination or free play, develop indifference to the pain of others, encourage destructive behaviours, perpetuate stereotypes, lead to a deterioration of moral values, suppress local cultures and contribute to social estrangement.


5 Integrated summaries:

  • Drotner, K. & Livingstone, S. (Eds.) (2008), The international handbook of children, media and culture. Los Angeles: Sage; Kirsh, S.J. (2009)
  • Media and youth: A developmental perspective. West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell; Lemish, D. (2007)
  • Children and television: A global perspective. Oxford: Blackwell; Mazzarella, S.R. (Ed.) (2007)
  • 20 questions about youth & the media. New York: Peter Lang; Pecora, N., Murray, J.P., & Wartella, E. (Eds.) (2007)
  • Children and television: Fifty years of research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum; Strasburger, V.C., Wilson, B.J., & Jordan, A. (Eds) (2008).
  • Children, adolescents and the media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

For specific research articles and reviews:




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