A Few Reminders About
Potential Contributions of the Media
to Children in Times of Conflict & War
A Few Reminders About
Potential Contributions of the Media
to Children in Times of Conflict & War
In an increasingly globalised world, war and terror attacks have become part of children's everyday lives. In terms of quality, this situation makes new and greater demands on producers of children's and youth television.
These are questions that call for urgent answers. Such answers can be found in close collaboration between research and TV production.
For this purpose, the IZI (International Central Institute for Youth and Educational Television, Bayerischer Rundfunk [BR], Munich, Germany) in cooperation with the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (Federal Agency of Civic Education, Bonn, Germany) hosted a four-day colloquium in June 2004 on the subject of Children and Young People Watching War - What to do When the Next War Comes? The latest research results on media coverage and children's responses to the war in Iraq were discussed, along with approaches from civic education and peace studies used with children in times of war. The conclusions from these discussions included developing recommendations for TV producers for presenting the news during times of conflict and war. The present document evolved out of these discussions.
Prof. Christian Büttner, Hessian Foundation for Peace and Conflict
Prof. Joanne Cantor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
Dr. Cynthia Carter, Cardiff University, Wales, Great Britain
Verena Egbringhoff, logo!, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), Germany
Dr. Ingrid Geretschlaeger, Media Education Consultancy at the Academy of Lower Austria, Austria
Dr. Maya Götz, International Central Institute for Youth and Educational Television, Germany
Andreas von Hören, Mediaprojekt Wuppertal, Germany
Prof. Dafna Lemish, Tel Aviv University, Israel
Dr. Peter Lemish, Independent Researcher, Israel
Prof. Máire Messenger Davies, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland
Dr. Peter Nikken, Expert Center on Youth and Media, Netherlands
Chris Schüpp, Young People's Media Network, UNICEF, Germany
Caroline Seige, Federal Agency of Civic Education, Germany
Prof. Ellen Seiter, University of Southern California, USA
Prof. Crain Soudien, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Petra Strohmaier, International Central Institute for Youth and Educational Television, Germany
Prof. Samy Tayie, Cairo University, Egypt
Dr. Juliette Walma van der Molen, Amsterdam University, Netherlands
Ragna Wallmark, Utbildningdradion (UR), Sweden
Willi Weitzel, Willi Want's to Know it All, BR, Germany
Development of this document was coordinated by Dr. Maya Götz
and Dr. Peter Lemish.
Unless otherwise noted, drawings and quotes of children are from research studies to be included in a forthcoming edited book by Prof. D. Lemish and Dr. M. Götz Children Facing the War in Iraq: The Role of Media in Europe, USA and Israel (temporary title).
Dr. Juliette Walma van der Molen
Prof. Crain Soudie
Dr. Cynthia Carter
Dr. Peter Nikken
Children are more aware of current social conflicts and events than you may think. They view and value your work. And they want you to value and address their questions, concerns and needs.
Therefore, addressing the "news" in programmes aimed at children is important, because it can prepare and empower them as future citizens, at all times and especially during times of conflict, to do the following:
Such contributions are important for the children as well as for the development of a democratic society. Therefore, we encourage you to integrate social conflicts and news in programming for children.
From online news discussions about the war in Iraq, BBC Newsround:
It really annoys me when something controversial happens in the news, adults say
`it may make a bad impression on children'.
This may be the case with very little children, but when they say children, they mean everyone ranging from toddlers to 18-year-olds.
They do not seem to understand that people my age have a mind of our own... saying that something may make a bad impression on us is insulting our intelligence.
Gemma, 14, posted May 29, 2004
From forthcoming study by Dr. Cynthia Carter.
Children are likely to have gained some knowledge about a conflict or war situation, but programmes meant specifically for them should help them cope with that knowledge by presenting information in ways that are not traumatising, but also not trivialising.
While making his drawing (on the right), Ludwig a
9-year-old boy from Germany, tells us what he wants to know from TV:
"I am interested to know: Who is making war with whom? Who else is involved? Who has the better chance of winning? What do the soldiers look like? How many of them are there?," followed by many other questions.
"I would have made a special programme for children, because adults know what war is and children don't", said Shirley, a 9-year-old Israeli girl.
Children and young people understand and interpret the war coverage in ways that may be somewhat different from adults.
8-year-old Achim answered the question - "And
who is the USA?" by saying - "The
Army of the Americans!"
Misunderstandings and rumours can develop, as in the following case. Verena, 11-year-old girl from Austria:
"In Iraq they are not allowed to use medicine anymore, because there are chemicals in it and they use the chemicals for weapons now. And the children in Iraq are not allowed to get medicine anymore. That's what a friend told me."
Julia, a 9-year-old girl from Germany:
Sean, an 11-year-old boy from United States
"News" and reporting about violence in conflicts can evoke fears.
Representative studies with American children and young people conducted by
Professor Joanne Cantor (University of Wisconsin) demonstrate that younger children
can be especially frightened by the news.
For example, 7- to 10-year-old children feel threatened by seeing pictures of injured people or bomb attacks. 13- to 17-year-olds are concerned about significant political issues, like the threat of a nuclear war or their own country's role in a conflict, such as the war in Iraq.
When interviewing Dutch children, Dr. Juliette Walma van der
Molen (University of Amsterdam) found that the number of children who are frightened
by TV news has increased over the last six years. While previously they were
afraid of murder and inter-personal violence, war and terrorist attacks have
become the most frightening topics for more than half of the children.
But, it is not only fear they feel when considering the topic of war. There are many more emotions involved. Some children are angry and concerned that the war will touch and affect them personally.
Be sensitive in the use of texts, pictures and sounds as they may engender fear. Enable children to articulate their anger and emotions. Provide them with suggestions about what to do about their emotions.
Relating to the news in children's programming is very important in developing children's civic education
One of the leaders of the popular civic education movement, Brasilian educator Paulo Freire summarised the goal of the empowerment that can be achieved through civic education in one word - "praxis": That is, help citizens - young and old - to conduct their daily actions through understanding and moral judgement.
Your reporting the news to children can contribute to helping develop "praxis-oriented" civic education in their everyday lives if you -
In the US, teachers and parents sought to protect their children and so avoided exposing them to media reports and to talking to them about the war. 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.
From a research study conducted by Prof. Ellen Seiter
Rather than protect children from the news about war, we need to present it to them so they can understand it, express their feelings about it and consider how they can act in relation to it.
Peace need not be an illusive, imaginary dream world. Often it is an actual achievement when people or societies negotiate and reach a compromise in which the basic needs of all parties in conflict are met.
War is one example of a breakdown in such a process. The best intentions to resolve a conflict may fail. For example, short-term agreements or superficial solutions may not deal with the root causes or may not be well-implemented. In these cases and others, the "Cycle of Conflict" will continue until there is an honest dealing with the core issues of the conflict:
Dr. Peter Lemish
Explaining and relating the "Cycle of Conflict" to common disputes that occur in children's own lives may help them to understand war and/or peace negotiations.
What can producers do to help children understand the process from conflict to its resolution?
"Why is there a war in Iraq? Why must there be
a war? Why don't adults stick to the rules they made? They say we are not allowed
15-year-old German girl
Applying these principles and practices in reporting on wars and social conflicts can also be an opportunity to show that we know how to resolve conflicts... not just between countries, but in our everyday lives at home, in the classroom, in the playground, with friends.
Tamar, 9-year-old Israeli girl,
explained that "I draw Ariel Sharon,
Saddam Hussein and George Bush
making peace and that I see
it on television."
Provide different genres and formats such as a variety of formats
Reporting from areas of conflict
In this episode, Willi goes to Sarajevo, meets a Bosnian family and learns about the work of SFOR troups who remove weapons and find landmines. Even 10 years after the war officially ended, destruction caused during the war, landmines and mental afflictions continue to have a great impact on people's everyday lives.
By shifting perspectives, from an emotional point of view to a perception based upon everyday life, this 26-minute-programme successfully presented the topic of war, completely, without leaving children overwhelmed by this heavy issue.
Other different elements -
Explanation - logo!, a German children's news programme, includes small sequences in which the backgrounds and developments of the story are explained in a simplified and comprehensible way. Much emphasis is put on visualisation, for example, in the use of graphics; sound editing; as well as by providing a direct, unambiguous picture.
Children's participation in the studio - On the programme Moncanoir (France3), a TV reporter met some pupils and discussed questions about the war in Iraq with them.
Giving children a voice in the studio - With little expenditure, Denmark's Broadcasting Corporation produced short segments in which children stated their opinions or asked questions about the war in Iraq.
Forum - A forum on your website will enable children to present and to discuss their opinions about the war and other news. For example, youth from the Arab world discussed the war in Iraq with other young people from all over the world on the UNICEF's Young People's Media Network discussion forum.
* If you have produced a special programme related to this issue, please send the information to us so that we can post it.
Some producers have developed guidelines for reporting "bad news" to children. Here are a few selected examples of such production guidelines*: