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Children and the media

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A taste for music

The explosion of music as a cultural focal point for young people - through audio and videotapes, CDs, live events and especially now through the Internet, radio and television - has reinforced the gap between the generations. Adults who worry about sexist and violent imagery and lyrics in the variety of musical genres are seen as simply out of touch.
By the early 1990s the music television channel MTV, founded in the United States in 1981, had access to over 20 million households in Central and Latin America (7.5 million in Brazil alone), 1.8 million in Asia and 36 million in Europe. It now has 16 national or regional branches, each delivering a wide variety of programming to increasingly varied young audiences.
Typically, music TV channels for the young feature a fast-moving diet of music videos interspersed with chat, promotional jingles and advertisements. They are essentially lifestyle channels and it is their consumerism that critics find so problematic. They proffer the unobtainable to many who are in no position to afford the goods on display, although, to receive the channels, young people must have access to satellite or cable.
However, those who can switch on to MTV are united through a website that gives opportunities for debate for young people everywhere, under banners like 'Fight for your rights'. The 'Hot global highlights' message reads: "Transcend frontiers by checking out this week's highlights. Find out what makes other young people tick around the planet, and get the scoop on a wide variety of international artists, events and more."
The communication giants have the potential to reach and deliver messages exclusively to young audiences at previously undreamed of levels. They are producing a shared experience. However commercialized the products, the appeal to young people derives from the fact that the experience is theirs.
Industry forecasters believe that annual retail sales for leisure software in the United States will top US$8 billion by 2005, a figure likely to be matched by sales in Europe, with the Japanese sales figures not far behind.
The spread of the MTV and games culture, bewildering though it may be to parents, represents a new cultural phenomenon that borrows and blends styles, themes and values. It is risky to predict the consequences for future generations and media products, but if young people are given opportunities to contribute rather than just consume, they could have a defining influence on the construction of the global village that communication technology is making possible.

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