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Sonia Livingstone

July 25th, 2018

Getting a Euro-Arab conversation going about young children’s media needs in an era of forced migration

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Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Sonia Livingstone

July 25th, 2018

Getting a Euro-Arab conversation going about young children’s media needs in an era of forced migration

0 comments

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes


Precedents for using young children’s screen content to promote diversity, inclusion, respect and understanding are surprisingly rare. The crisis of forced migration and the media needs of new arrivals and settled children call for a widely-targeted initiative. What practical screen content policies and production recommendations are best for giving children a voice and promoting their social engagement and future participation as citizens in new environments? 
This post by Jeanette Steemers is co-authored with Naomi Sakr, Professor of Media Policy at University of WestminsterJeanette is a leading researcher in the field of media industry studies and media policy studies at King’s College department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries. [Header image credit: M. Pellitero, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

How do young children whose families have travelled thousands of miles to escape terror and conflict make sense of their unfamiliar new environment? And how do young children who are familiar with that environment make sense of the arrival of their unfamiliar counterparts from abroad? Broadcasters in European countries receiving large numbers of refugees over the last few years have come up with various responses, most of them aimed at older teenagers or adults, such as news bulletins delivered or subtitled in Arabic. A big opportunity still exists for communities engaged with young children’s media, as practitioners, advocates and policy-makers, to think about how to integrate the needs of families and younger displaced Arabic-speaking children into their forward planning.

The UK’s Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has just awarded a grant to promote dialogue between members of these communities in Europe and the Arab world. Based on findings from three years of AHRC-funded research into the media experiences of young Arabic-speaking children, the new project aims to share that knowledge through a series of workshops that will facilitate discussion between those in Europe who regulate, commission, fund, produce or comment on children’s content and Arab expert practitioners with experience of children’s media.

Our research has shown how crucial it is for young refugee and migrant children to see themselves truthfully represented on European screens at a time when they and their parents are likely to be feeling disoriented and homesick, particularly if their extended families are scattered across different continents. Yet practitioners and NGOs working towards that representation need to know more about the cultural and social context of the countries from which these families and children have fled. The project’s first workshop will address questions such as:

  • How is childhood defined and understood in the Arab world and how have Arab children’s media needs been articulated by industry and policy-makers at home?
  • What do Arab children know about the world from the screen content available to them on pan-Arab outlets and online? Where are the gaps?
  • What are the shared information and entertainment needs, wants and experiences of young Arabic-speaking refugee and migrant children and European-born children who have watched them arrive? How can this knowledge be used to reach out to children and reflect diversity?
  • What practical screen content policies and production recommendations are best for giving children a voice and promoting their social engagement and future participation as citizens in new environments?

The economic realities of content production for children everywhere and the rapidly changing distribution landscape present challenges to investment at the national level. But the crisis of forced migration and the media needs of new arrivals and settled children call for a widely-targeted initiative that can have economic viability by transcending national borders in terms of both producers and audiences and being delivered on a range of platforms and devices. Examples of children’s content shared among European public service broadcasters, despite language barriers, demonstrate that stories for young children can be compelling with minimal spoken narrative and that children have enough in common across cultures that they are not bewildered by different story settings.

Precedents for using young children’s screen content to promote diversity, inclusion, respect and understanding are surprisingly rare; at a workshop in Malaysia, run by the authors of this blog, participants from several Asian countries repeatedly cited Sesame Workshop’s international partnerships as pioneers in this regard. In the Arab world those partnerships have addressed early childhood development needs throughout the Gulf, Egypt, Jordan and Palestine. In its new initiative with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Sesame now aims to use mass media and direct services to meet the needs of refugee and displaced children in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.

In focusing on media tools as a means to help reshape visions of the future for children and young people who have experienced trauma, the Sesame-IRC project and AHRC-funded workshop series are complementary. In the latter, Arab practitioners will help European creatives, regulators and others gain more nuanced insights into differences between Arab and European media ecologies and approaches to childhood, so that they in turn can better envisage ways to promote citizenship and local social engagement among displaced children and their peers in an increasingly diverse Europe.

The first workshop took place in Manchester on 4 December 2017, linked to the Children’s Global Media Summit in the same city. The workshop title was: ‘Children’s Screen Content in an Era of Forced Migration: Facilitating Arab-European Dialogue’. Further events will take place elsewhere in Europe in 2018.

Notes


This text was originally published by Jeanette Steemers on Medium and has been re-posted with permission.

This post gives the views of the authors and does not represent the position of the LSE Parenting for a Digital Future blog, nor of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

About the author

Sonia Livingstone

Sonia Livingstone OBE is Professor of Social Psychology in the Department of Media and Communications at LSE. Taking a comparative, critical and contextual approach, her research examines how the changing conditions of mediation are reshaping everyday practices and possibilities for action. She has published twenty books on media audiences, media literacy and media regulation, with a particular focus on the opportunities and risks of digital media use in the everyday lives of children and young people. Her most recent book is The class: living and learning in the digital age (2016, with Julian Sefton-Green). Sonia has advised the UK government, European Commission, European Parliament, Council of Europe and other national and international organisations on children’s rights, risks and safety in the digital age. She was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2014 'for services to children and child internet safety.' Sonia Livingstone is a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, the British Psychological Society, the Royal Society for the Arts and fellow and past President of the International Communication Association (ICA). She has been visiting professor at the Universities of Bergen, Copenhagen, Harvard, Illinois, Milan, Oslo, Paris II, Pennsylvania, and Stockholm, and is on the editorial board of several leading journals. She is on the Executive Board of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, is a member of the Internet Watch Foundation’s Ethics Committee, is an Expert Advisor to the Council of Europe, and was recently Special Advisor to the House of Lords’ Select Committee on Communications, among other roles. Sonia has received many awards and honours, including honorary doctorates from the University of Montreal, Université Panthéon Assas, the Erasmus University of Rotterdam, the University of the Basque Country, and the University of Copenhagen. She is currently leading the project Global Kids Online (with UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti and EU Kids Online), researching children’s understanding of digital privacy (funded by the Information Commissioner’s Office) and writing a book with Alicia Blum-Ross called ‘Parenting for a Digital Future (Oxford University Press), among other research, impact and writing projects. Sonia is chairing LSE’s Truth, Trust and Technology Commission in 2017-2018, and participates in the European Commission-funded research networks, DigiLitEY and MakEY. She runs a blog called www.parenting.digital and contributes to the LSE’s Media Policy Project blog. Follow her on Twitter @Livingstone_S

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