A workshop held at the İstanbul University communication faculty's conference hall on Thursday recommended 10 steps for eliminating the media's negative influence on children and teenagers in Turkey.
The workshop, titled “Medya ve Çocuk” (Media and Children), was jointly organized by the Journalists and Writers Foundation's (GYV) Women's Platform, the Medialog Platform and the İstanbul University communication faculty.
Representatives from the press and civil society organizations; the İstanbul University communication faculty dean, Professor Pınar Eraslan Yayınoğlu; state-sponsored children's channel TRT Çocuk (TRT Child) General Manager Can Soysal; GYV President Mustafa Yeşil; journalists Balçiçek İlter, Yalvaç Ural and İpek Çalışlar; and Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) President Davut Dursun were among the participants.
Suggestions offered in the statement released at the workshop include:
- Since Turkey signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, all parents, advertisers, publishers, broadcasters and nongovernmental organizations should do their part to prevent the negative impacts of media on children.
- As media affects children's social development, all gender, race, language or faith-based discrimination should be removed from 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 lead role to achieve 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, RTÜK President Dursun said that it is an undeniable fact that the media influences children in 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 have difficulty thinking abstractly these days and noted that children and teenagers have begun to think more visually because of excessive exposure to television, starting from an early age.
Sharing results of a three-year-old RTÜK study, Dursun said the primary activity that children and teens do outside of school in Turkey 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 it 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 Mengü from the İstanbul Univeristy 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 in 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.