Children’s media forum moves towards constructive engagement

2boyscomputergameA public forum aimed at finding common ground in debates about children and the media will be held at Flinders University Victoria Square on Friday.

Researchers and academics from a range of disciplines and media industry representatives will come together to discuss how to create a media environment that supports children’s health and wellbeing in the next phase of an international project led by Flinders and the Center on Media and Child Health at the Boston Children’s Hospital, USA.

Law academic and President of the Australian Council on Children and the Media, Professor Elizabeth Handsley said last year’s Harvard-Australia Symposium on Media Use and Children’s Wellbeing established a positive framework in which different viewpoints on children and media could be addressed.

“There is a general interest in shifting some of the focus away from compliance with regulations in areas such as violence, scary material, sexualisation and food advertising to getting people to take active responsibility for the media environment in which children live,” Professor Handsley said.

“At the moment the questions asked tend to be individualised and oversimplified,” she said.

“Rather than leaving it to producers to ask ‘does my film have too much violence?’, we would like to see a range of stakeholders working together in an awareness of the possible impacts of different kinds of violence on different kinds of children.

“There is a role in that discussion for policy makers, children’s professionals, producers and broadcasters, publishers and parents – anyone who has an interest in the TV, films, games, websites or magazines to which children have access.”

While content remains a primary concern, the amount of media children use and where they use it are also of concern, Professor Handsley said.

“The answer to these questions cannot rest within a single field of research,” she said.

“This forum is an important opportunity to hear from many different voices working in the area and to examine the possibilities for academics, children’s professionals and stakeholders to work together for the protection and enhancement of children’s interests.”

Professor Handsley and Dr Michael Rich, Director of the Center on Media and Children’s Health at the Boston Children’s Hospital, will present the findings of the Symposium at public consultations in Canberra and Melbourne this week.

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