War in Children's Television
today are increasingly aware of such events as the war in
Iraq in 2003 and the terror attacks of September 11, 2000,
not least due to their high media presence. In this day and
age, attempting to shield them from these topics, the approach
advocated in the USA during the war in Iraq, is an unrealistic
aim. For in an increasingly global world even crises and catastrophes
that take place in countries thousands of miles away do become
a topic in children's daily lives.
What is the meaning of this development?
Children hear about, see and must cope with these frightening,
worrying events, which were once the preserve of adults alone.
The picture they develop of events is clearly influenced by
the political environment they live in. The constancy with
which American children supported the attack on Iraq, Israeli
children wanted Saddam Hussein to die and German children
opposed the war was astonishing. However, the fact that at
such a young age children conjured up images of people having
their throats cut, of underhand tricks or of American soldiers
with smiles on their faces while shooting at Iraqi children
demands consideration. From an analytical perspective the
above scenarios underline how hard children endeavour to assimilate
the fragments of information they receive, how limited the
resources they have to tackle the problem with are. Yet how
is it possible to give children an understanding of war or
terror attacks without emotionally overburdening them?
In this issue of "TelevIZIon", committed editorial
staff report on how they approach this challenge and make
these complex issues comprehensible to children. Current studies
on the war in Iraq in 2003 analyse how the topic was handled
by the media and how children perceived it. From the point
of view of educational science it is obvious that competence
and cooperation are required from all those involved - because
this war is certainly not the last which will occupy the thoughts
of children worldwide.
Head of the
International Central Institute for Youth and Educational
Reporting for children must not ignore crisis situations.
It is precisely in such situations that logo! provides support
by means of explanatory units and help to put events in
their proper perspective. Dramatisation and sensationalism
are deliberately avoided.
"Why are they
In crisis situations the Children's Channel of ARD and ZDF
provides information which makes the overall scheme of events
understandable for children without expecting too much of
them. Human suffering is deliberately not shown in close-up
shots. In crisis situations programmes and internet pages
become forums that allow children to have their say.
In handling the subject of war Austrian children's television
focused on the children's perspective. In order to take
away the children's fears the subjects of peace and conflict
resolution were dealt with.
The BBC children's news programme reported daily about the
war events. Self-imposed guidelines enabled the channel
to reach a responsible coverage of the war.
As regards the war in Iraq the Brazilian educational channel
Canal Futura deliberately denied to put its emphasis on
war reporting. Instead the channel postulated tolerance
by means of TV spots and an artwork Olympiad.
The television producers in Israel had worked intensely
on planning for the Iraq War, not least because the outbreak
of a war in Israel seemed to be just as possible. In view
of the great experience with crisis situations of this kind,
the broadcasting stations were well prepared and tried,
on the one hand, to find a way of informing their young
television audiences about the war, but , on the other,
of conveying something approaching normality and everyday
The Iraq War
on Children's TV
Producers of children's television programmes worldwide
dealt with the topic of the war in Iraq in different ways.
Some made their programmes into "war-free" safe
havens for children, while others tried to inform children
through specially prepared programmes and so offered them
support in coping with the war.
Children in Germany opposed the war in Iraq. They had expected
to receive more information from the media, particularly
on the plight of people in Iraq. Questioning on their understanding
of the war revealed that some of them would have liked to
have supported Saddam Hussein and saw the Americans as the
aggressors who used underhanded tricks and enjoyed shooting
Ellen Seiter / Megan Pincus
A protective silence
In the US media parents were called upon to protect their
children from media reports. Parents and teachers avoided
talking to children about the subject. Accordingly American
children's knowledge about the war seemed to be full of
gaps. Their ideas about military action almost resembled
stories in comics and many questions remained unanswered.
war is our war!"
Children in Israel established a direct link between
the Iraq War and the conflict in their own country. Influenced
by the prevalent media debate in Israel, which presents
war in keeping with the national conflict as "fateful"
and "without any prospect of ending", they regarded
the war as a justified act by George Bush, although they
very much wanted an end to the hostilities.
Maya Götz / Peter Nikken
A comparison of children's messages posted on Internet forums
of children's television programme websites in the Netherlands
and Germany showed that a significant number of German children
opposed the war in Iraq; this was primarily because they
had a fundamental objection to war. By contrast, it became
clear that there was considerable heterogeneity both in
the opinions voiced by Dutch children and in the arguments
they presented to support these opinions. The name Saddam
Hussein also featured far more frequently in the arguments
of Dutch children.
FROM A PEDAGOGICAL POINT OF
"I wonder if any children have survived as well?"
Therapeutic work reveals how children deal with the
frightening images of television reports. Parents and producers
can support the anxiety management if they adopt the children's
point of view and take the adolescents' situation from a
developmental psychology perspective into consideration.
Particularly during world crises pedagogues have to
find a suitable way of enhancing media literacy. In addition
to an analysis of content, above all this implies a close
consideration of reporting in the media and the provision
of opportunities to express and actively create individual
Norbert Neuss / Ira Neukirchen
Samson is frightened
One possibility of co-operation with producers and researchers
is media-educational counselling, such as in the case of
the spots featuring the Sesame Street Muppets for support
in crisis situations.
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