Media for children [Archives:2007/1047/Viewpoint]

May 3 2007

I was very amused when I saw Dina, a girl of 8 years old fighting with her mother over the morning newspaper. Dina was arguing that she too wanted to read the paper and learn about the international headlines and local news. Before this incident, I had never considered children below 14 as a target group for what we like to call serious journalism. Why would Dina, and other children, want to know about world politics, for example? But when I thought about it more, I realised that it is only fair that children want to participate in their surrounding environment and have an opinion aabout their country's or the world's politics. After all, they are the future leaders.

Most of the regular Arabic publications and periodicals dedicated to children are limited to comic books and stories translated from other languages. There is no newspaper dedicated for children.

This educational gap is not only limited to media targeted towards children, for there is also a shortage of adult media which is concerned with child issues. Some organisations are trying to fill in the void by encouraging journalists to approach this neglected area. UNICEF-Yemen had just concluded a three day workshop in Ibb for rural journalists coming from Ibb, Taiz and Dhale', which aimed at sensitizing journalists towards children rights and issues. The workshop was under the theme “Journalists lead the way”, which is apt to their role in real life.

The journalists were interested in these topics and most of their complains was that publishers and editors in chief did not encourage articles about children, let alone stories directed towards children. Another problem was the technical skills required to tackle such issues.

Dina's demand to read the newspaper, despite the fact that it might just go over her head, made me feel guilty. As a leading journalist, I know it is my responsibility to provide her and all the other children with constructive and educating material in order to equip them with sufficient knowledge to play their role in the near future as adults.

Director Mimi Leder touched this issue in the brilliant movie “Pay it Forward”. I am particularly talking about a particular scene at the beginning of the movie where the seventh grade teacher Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey) asks the students what do they think the world expects from them. Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) replies that the world expects nothing from them as children because they are too young to influence life. But then Eugene asks them a striking question: what if time comes and you are a part of the adult life and discover that the world is a big disappointment?

You would have to see the movie (that is if you haven't yet) to know what I am talking about. But the bottom line is that there has to be a preparation phase for children while they are in their growing phase so that when they come of age they are ready and prepared to face the real world and make the best of it.

This is why it is important to create media for children. The whole future is for the children, so wouldn't be asking too much if we dedicate some of our time for them? I don't think so.