Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Media and children's rights in the digital age

By Patricia Edgar - posted Wednesday, 17 September 2014

All too often the media stand accused about their negative influence on children with the result their great positive potential for children remains underused. We hear instead about the 'disease' model of child protection, regulation and prevention.

The World Summit movement on Media for Children since its inception in Melbourne in 1995, has fostered a positive, health-promoting model of quality media that will enhance child development and learning, and empower children to strengthen what they are already creating as 'producers' of media content. Children have become very active participants who are reshaping the media environment on their own terms, not just 'consumers' in need of adult protection.

In 2010 UNICEF released a study of six major dimensions of child well-being and media was not one of them. The Report stated : 'The true measure of a nation's standing is how well it attends to its children – their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialisation and their sense of being loved, valued and included in the families and societies into which they are born'.


No one should argue with that, but children's well-being should be firmly at the centre of the debate around young people, media and technology. Globally there are important rights children should be able to expect in relation to media and their use of media.

First they have a right to see themselves, their communities and their cultures reflected accurately and with respect in media content, not just to be exposed to a homogenised, globalised, consumer-driven market culture. Children have a right to programs that are of high quality in terms of scripts, characters and production values. They have a right to stories and activities that are entertaining, educational and inspiring to their thinking and learning processes.

Second children have a right to be given a voice for their ideas and life goals, and guided towards more sophisticated expression of their voices in all forms of traditional and new media. Instead of sitting outside the standard media structures, children's own productions and ideas for media programs need to be listened to and welcomed.

Third, children have a right to have equal access to all forms of media so none are disadvantaged in the digital age. This is especially important for girls. Much educational disadvantage could be addressed through better access to digital media.

Fourth, children should expect to learn about the world and their place in it, to learn the universal values which should bind the human race together, via the media they access and use.

Fifth, children have a right to have schools and education policy more closely linked with communication policy in recognition of the fact that children learn as much from exposure to media as they do from the standard school curriculum.


Such rights imply a shift in focus away from seeing media as the enemy, a threat, something to be warned about and regulated negatively. This approach has dominated the thinking behind the adult agenda for children far too long. This means closer attention needs to be paid to the quality of programs currently offered by producers and broadcasters. We should be discussing the values that underpin children's media programs. How do current programs impact on children's understanding of the world? How can we educate writers and producers to better use the educational, social and moral potential of their media products?

We need wider discussion and understanding of the role media play in early childhood learning (in developing socio-emotional intelligence, literacy and cognitive ability) and, in particular, we need a concerted campaign to insist with governments and regulators that media policy take into account the positive ways digital media could be incorporated in school learning.

That would mean a much more sophisticated approach to media literacy in the school curriculum. We need teachers who understand the media production process, not people just trained in theory to understand the semiotics of media, or the tricks of advertising, or dangers of cyber-bullying, or to oppose to what they regard as the damage of 'multi-tasking'. On that issue there is not one credible study that supports this view. On the contrary, brain research is demonstrating the resilience of the brain. The more the brain is challenged the better it responds. There is no such thing as mono-tasking.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

Dr Patricia Edgar is the Chair of the World Summit on Media for Children Foundation. This article is based on an address to the 7th World Summit on Media for Children held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia September 8-10th 2014.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

5 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Patricia Edgar is an author, television producer and educator. She was the founding director of the Australian Children's Television Foundation. She is also the author of In Praise of Ageing and an Ambassador for the National Ageing Research Institute.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Patricia Edgar

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 5 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy