Despite being widely perceived as a defender of rights and freedoms, the media may turn into a means strong enough to spoil the structure of the family, cautioned Professor Aytekin Sır, a psychiatrist who attended a family conference in Antalya.
Titled “Family as a Value in terms of Religion, Tradition and Modernity,” the international conference was held by the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) on Nov. 26-27. Around 600 scholars from 50 countries around the globe attended the event.
The professor argued that the media may become a power to destroy a family, or even an entire society, through publications and broadcasts that are not duly monitored by a supervisory body or commission.
“Today there is no need to use a weapon or an army to destroy a government. Likewise, there is no need for a violent power to destroy the family. Instead, there is a new and effective weapon to do this: the media,” he noted. According to Sır, the Turkish family structure has undergone a swift change since TV first entered people’s lives.
“In our society, visitors are traditionally offered coffee or tea. But in TV series, we see bottles of alcoholic beverages constantly available in one corner. Even though a person has never tried drugs or addictive substances, he has watched how to use them many times on TV. Seeing such scenes on TV, people eventually started to believe that the use of drugs is not at all abnormal,” the professor said.
Dangers of women’s morning shows
Sır underlined that it is not only TV series that pose a danger to traditional family values. What is probably more dangerous is the morning TV shows geared towards women.
Turkey’s problem with such shows was brought to the public agenda in mid-September when a man wounded two people with a handgun at an İstanbul television studio. One of the victims was a participant in the show while the other was an electronic technician at the studio.
“A woman who appears on a live TV show may divulge even the most personal sides of her family. I believe such shows, geared towards women, should not be broadcast live. They should be broadcast only after they are screened by a supervisory body,” the professor noted. He also said a similar precaution should be taken against TV shows such as “Big Brother” and matchmaking programs.
Another form of media activity that threatens the family structure, according to the professor, is reports on violence. He said earlier research showed that the more newspaper readers read or TV audiences watch about violence, the more violent they tend to be.
“In Turkey, if a video that includes images of violence is available, it is offered without much censorship. However, in many other countries, such videos are shown only after violent parts are cut out,” he said.
There have long been calls for media outlets to avoid providing detailed coverage of cases of violence as detailed reports promote similar cases of violence and violate the personal rights of both victims and suspects. “We should also discuss how to present reports of suicide. Such reports should not be given in an encouraging manner or on the front pages of newspapers or magazines. They should find a place on the third page, but without any images or photos,” Sır stated.
What about the Internet?
The Internet is also another widely used media tool. It also is not free of negative impacts on the family.
“In our daily life we encounter individuals whose marriages collapsed as a result of relationships they established through the Internet. People who chat with people they meet in cyberspace compliment them in ways they usually don’t their real-life partners. This leads to disappointment among couples,” Sır said.
Turkey witnesses more divorces every passing year, mostly stemming from a lack of mutual confidence among couples. The real reason behind the loss of mutual confidence is often related to the “Internet habits” of couples. Partners frequently complain that their partners spend too much time on the Internet, mostly chatting with their “cyber friends.”
The Associated Press reported in June that Facebook, the favored way for today’s youth to communicate on a global level, had become divorce lawyers’ new best friend. The news agency said “oversharing” on social networks led to an overabundance of evidence in divorce cases. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers said 81 percent of its members used or faced evidence plucked from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networking sites.
Sır also argued that children’s Internet access should also be under the control or surveillance of parents in order to maintain a stronger family structure.
“The home computer should be placed in an area accessible to all members of the family. The living room is a perfect setting. This will allow parents to see what their children are browsing. Also, the computers should have parental control software installed on them. The mother and father should check websites visited by their children from time to time,” the professor added.