Screens instead of teachers?

Children increasingly resemble their media heroes. Dressing the same way and behaving like them. As if they had the illusion that life is a TV programme.

Boris Šćekić, 14, young reporter – UNICEF volunteer
Boris Šćekić, 14, young reporter – UNICEF volunteer
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2019

13 June 2019

Last week, while I was in charge of hall monitoring along with a friend of mine, I paid attention to some things I usually don’t notice. In the everyday rush to get to my classes on time, with all the stress about grades and talking with my peers, I normally do not pay attention to parents and their children. This time, however, I did. Towards the end of the last class, most first-graders were sent to the classroom for after-school care.

The children were hopping with joy while they waited in the queue to get into the classroom. At that moment, I remembered the time when I used to attend after-school care and spend time there doing homework and learning science and social studies.  I did not understand why these children were so impatient and what was so interesting about after-school care.

I looked away and returned to skimming through boring Instagram stories.

Eventually, I was interrupted by a mother of a child who asked me if I could fetch her child from the classroom for after-school care.

How cool, I thought to myself. He gets to go home before the rest of his peers. I knocked on the door and as there was no answer I walked in.

It was quite a sight. Twenty children staring at a TV screen. I couldn’t clearly see the cartoon that was on, but I could tell it contained a lot of aggression. They were focused on the cartoon so hard they never blinked.

Their classroom teacher was sitting in a corner, occupied with her smartphone. I remembered the lyrics of our song: “Everyone has a smartphone, but we ought to be smarter than it, shouldn’t we?” Was this teacher smarter than her smartphone?

I approached her and told her why I was there. She just yelled the boy’s name out. I helped the boy put on his Spiderman jacket, linking in my mind the uncritical consumption of cartoons and the choice of the jacket, and led the boy out of the classroom.

What has happened with our teachers and children? Have TV sets become a modern replacement for real-life teachers?

And what about the children?

They increasingly resemble their media heroes. Dressing the same way and behaving like them. As if they had the illusion that life is a TV programme. .

I thought of a recent survey about children and the media, conducted by UNICEF and AEM, according to which 57% of children have the same hairstyles, wear the same clothes or do the same things as their media heroes.

It crossed my mind that I had imitated the characters from Yu-Gi-Oh! cartoon myself as a child.

Are media heroes really heroes? And if they are, can they and should they replace our teachers?