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
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 Television
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.
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.
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
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 children.
Ellen Seiter / Megan Pincus
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
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
Maya Götz / Peter Nikken
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.
FROM A PEDAGOGICAL POINT OF VIEW
"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 perspectives.
Norbert Neuss / Ira Neukirchen
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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