41st World Day of Social Communications

41st World Day of Social Communications

The message of the Pope for the 41st World Day of Social Communications, “Children and the Media: a challenge for education”, reminds educators and media workers to put the formation of children and young people at the centre of their priorities.
Actually, the children of today are the first really interactive generation, capable of doing several operations simultaneously.  They know the potential of the computer better than their parents and spend about four hours a day between old and new media, going from an online game to the Internet, from the Play-station to exchanging text messages.   Mobile phones, new portable game-boys, the web, all allow them to be in constant contact with an ever vaster “virtual community” with whom they can play online games, exchange messages, photos, videos, share TV programmes and download music and films.   Because of the way you can use them and their content both the television and the computer can be seen as prototypes of simplicity.   They are always available, they entertain you without any difficulty, they always have something to offer they keep you company, they put you in contact with everyone.   They make you feel the centre of the world, they tell you what you want to hear, they help you avoid the problems of building genuine relationships with others.  They make you believe that happiness is at the click of a remote control or mouse; they lead you to believe that if you don’t like a thing or a person they can be eliminated in an instant.  They lead you to think that the image is much more important than the word; they put every kind of product at your disposal.  They do not ask for any renunciations or sacrifices.  They convince you that all you have to do to get something is to pay.  In short, if you are not careful, by making you believe yourself a king, they turn you into a slave.  The media can, however, also be useful and educational tools, as long as they remain a resource. Educators must do everything possible to help children develop many interests and to do this they need to manage their time and learn to manage their exposure to the media, giving space to a variety of forms of expression and activities such as play, cultural and manual activities and relationships, so as not to develop only a single dimension of the young person’s life: the technical-electronic dimension.   It is true that the media are a part of our daily life, but it is important that children continue to make time for and choose games involving movement, friends, art, sport, music and books. 
Children look at the world with curiosity through the media, and they interpret it using the symbols that they learn from TV and videogames. Some metaphors could be used to explain how the children are in front of the many media and the many possibilities of communication they have at their disposal. 
One is Alice in Wonderland.  She followed the rabbit with the watch, out of curiosity and the desire to explore a different world. Curiosity leads children to try to explore of the world of the media that appears mysterious and attractive to them.
Peter Pan decides not to grow and to remain in Neverland, where it is easier for dreams to come true and where one is invincible against Captain Hook.   It is easy to overcome an enemy using a play-station that projects the children into a world where they can assume different identities.
Thumbelina who gets lost in the forest where there are not many signs, but leaves behind tracks of pebbles, in the hope that some adult who knows the secrets of the woods may help her.  Even those children who seem most reluctant to enter into dialogue, deep down are searching for adults who will guide them to live in an ever more complex world.   

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