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Communicating with children

Making a difference

© UNICEF/MENA05699/Pirozzi
Occupied Palestinian Territory: Jamilla El-Ghoorh reads a brochure to help her daughters deal with the ongoing conflict.

These examples show us the potential of media, positive and negative, to make a difference in children’s lives in all areas of their development: behaviourally (imitating sharing or imitating aggression), socially (making friends or bullying their classmates in school or on the Internet); cognitively (learning school preparedness skills or developing short attention spans) and even physically (learning balanced nutrition or developing bad eating habits). Clearly, media influences are not simply either good or bad. They are complicated and interlinked with many grey areas open to multiple interpretations, depending upon different cultural value systems and world views.

For example, is corresponding with strangers on the Internet dangerous or does it widen horizons? Is sex education for adolescents in the media life-saving or morally inappropriate? Does watching an American TV series expand cultural experiences or damage other cultural identities? Does addressing topics like trauma or death help children cope with difficult experiences or traumatize them and make them even more fearful and distrustful of adults? Do productions documenting the abrogation of children’s “rights” help improve their lives or do they present the worst rather than the best in families, communities and societies to these same groups and to the wider world?

The answers to these and similar questions are not clear-cut, but value driven, to a large degree, and depend on many personal and social variables and should be examined with the specific child and circumstances in mind. More than ever, there is also a need for more research on the positive and negative influences of media in the lives of children in low-resource societies and in emergencies in order to better understand these processes and to better children’s lives worldwide (12).




12 See The International Clearinghouse on Children, Youth & Media at the Nordicom, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.



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