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Publications     TELEVIZION No. 17/2004/E

War in Children's Television


Children 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.

Maya Götz

Head of the
International Central Institute for Youth and Educational Television



Markus Schächter

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.

Frank Beckmann
"Why are they doing that?"

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.

Astrid Hammer

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.

Ian Prince

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.

Débora Garcia
Canal Futura

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.

Dafna Lemish
Preparing for war

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 life.


Petra Strohmaier
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.

Maya Götz
"We're against it!"
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 children.

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.

Dafna Lemish
"This 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
Children write about war
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.


Jan-Uwe Rogge
"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.

Ingrid Geretschlaeger
Media literacy wanted
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 perspectives.

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.


You can order a paperback version of this special issue of TELEVIZION by sending an e-Mail.

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