As adults, we all have an internal regulator telling us what we think is or is not acceptable for children to see on television. Even the most liberal of adults will draw the line somewhere. Parents have widely differing, but often very strongly held opinions about what they do not want their children to see on television. And although parents often express views that their children don’t share, if you were to ask a group of children what they think their younger brother or sister should be allowed to watch, you would find that they also have firmly held beliefs.
Debates about what is appropriate to show children on television often focus on the topic of violence, but the range of issues about which program makers, parents and children have conflicting opinions is far broader and far more complex than one issue. It covers every aspect of experience that adults feel children should be protected from in some way: sex, drugs, death, illness, poverty, cruelty, in addition to violence. This range of topics will be illustrated in the video sequence that will open the debate. The clips are from programs around the world that have been considered controversial in some way: a street child talking about her life on the streets of South America, an animation explaining sexual abuse, the birth of a baby in a documentary program, the birth of a lamb in an educational program, a fantasy action cartoon, a disturbing drama and others. The sequence includes the opinions of children as they tell us what they think about the issues raised by these programs.
We hope that this panel will provoke the speakers and other contributors to question the assumptions we all make about the effect of a wide range of television offerings on children’s moral, social and psychological development.
Anne Brogan is formerly executive producer, education production at the BBC in London. She is producing the Politics panel ‘The Boundaries of Children’s Television’ on Tuesday, March 10.