A workshop held at Istanbul University’s Faculty of Communication on April 5, 2012, recommended ten steps for eliminating the media’s negative influence on children and teenagers in Turkey.
Children spend 900 hours a year at school and they spend 1,200 hours in front of TV screens. Upon completing primary school, children have seen 100,000 scenes of violence and 8,000 scenes of murder or death. Please consider how these scenes affect children’s psychology.
Davut Dursun, RTUK president
The workshop, titled “Medya ve Cocuk” (The Media and Children), was jointly organized by the JWF Women’s Platform, the Medialog Platform, and Istanbul University’s Faculty of Communication.
Workshop participants included representatives from the press and civil society organizations; Professor Pinar Eraslan Yayinoglu, dean of Istanbul University’s Faculty of Communication; Can Soysal, general manager of the state-sponsored children’s channel TRT Cocuk (TRT Children); Mustafa Yesil, president of JWF; journalists Balcicek Ilter, Yalvac Ural, and Ipek Calislar; and Davut Dursun, president of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK).
The statement released at the workshop offered the following suggestions:
- Since Turkey signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, all parents, advertisers, publishers, broadcasters, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) should do their part to prevent the negative impacts of the media on children.
- As the media affects children’s social development, all gender, race, language, or faith-based discrimination should be removed from the media.
- The content of children’s programming should be enhanced in Turkey.
- Schools should employ professionals who are specialized in teaching media literacy.
- Courses should be provided to parents on the issue of media literacy, and TV stations should increase the number of shows that parents and children can watch together. The Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) should take a leading role in achieving this goal.
- Language barriers should be removed and alternative programming should be provided for children who don’t speak Turkish.
- The physical, emotional, and psychological health of children should be considered by journalists when reporting on children’s issues.
- More regulations should be imposed to limit media content that is harmful for children. The implementation of these limits should be closely monitored.
- Media outlets should provide more content for children that encourages a healthy sense of self.
- Both the public and the state should encourage broadcasters and publishers to include science and art content.
In his opening speech at the workshop, RTUK President Dursun said that it is an undeniable fact that the media influences children in both positive and negative ways. He added that the media has a large effect on children’s education, socialization, and communication.
Dursun drew attention to the fact that children and teenagers now have difficulty thinking abstractly, noting that they have begun to think more visually because of excessive exposure to television starting from an early age.
Sharing the results of a three-year-old RTUK study, Dursun said the primary activity that children and teens in Turkey do outside of school is watch TV, but in recent years Internet use has outpaced TV watching. He added that the Internet has more negative effects on children than TV.
Dursun concluded, “Children are watching TV for three hours a day in Turkey. Eighty-two percent of children decide on their own which programs to watch. What a disaster that is! Children spend 900 hours a year at school and they spend 1,200 hours in front of TV screens. Upon completing primary school, children have seen 100,000 scenes of violence and 8,000 scenes of murder or death. Please consider how these scenes affect children’s psychology.”
Associate Professor Seda Mengu from Istanbul University’s Faculty of Communication shared the results of her study on how children are presented in “page three stories” in Turkey. She said that most journalists don’t comply with rules or ethics when reporting children’s issues. Although it is not legal to use the names or photos of underage children when reporting on violence, sexual abuse, or robbery incidents, journalists frequently do so, ignoring the possible psychological and social impact that these stories may have on children.