On March 5, 2021, UNICEF Bulgaria and Association of European Journalists -Bulgaria presented a new report on current trends in the coverage of children in the media, including in the context of COVID-19, based on a large-scale academic study. Irina Nedeva, a journalist from the Bulgarian National Radio, chairwoman of AEJ-Bulgaria and panelist of the national conference “Media Literacy in Bulgaria. What have we learned from the crisis?”, organized by the Media Literacy Coalition and the Friedrich Naumann Freedom Foundation in October 2020, was moderator of the event.
How do the media in Bulgaria cover children? What are the attitudes of journalists and students towards children’s rights? This is the focus of the academic study “Children in the Media”, whose authors are Assoc. Prof. Vyara Angelova, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Zhana Popova and Prof. Dr. Snezhana Popova. The statistical data processing is by Svetoslav Mitev. The study is part of a joint project of UNICEF Bulgaria and the Association of European Journalists-Bulgaria for ethical coverage of children in the media.
The report covers an analysis of the content of 12 media in 2020, as well as 45 in-depth interviews with journalists and a micro-study of students’ attitudes towards the coverage of children in the media with a total of 108 participants. The main trends and conclusions were presented to institutions, media and a wide audience by the authors of the study.
“As a general conclusion, the study shows knowledge on the part of journalists and compliance with basic professional and ethical rules, especially with regard to capturing images of children. However, the ethical commitment of the media is not limited to the rules of filming. The inclusion of children in a meaningful way in the media content itself remains one of the most significant challenges “, said Assoc. Prof. Vyara Angelova, co-author of the report.
Assoc. Prof. Jana Popova, co-author of the report ads: “Our data show that the media are divided into two large groups. In one – that of electronic media – the child is most often shown in a normal situation. “Telegraph”, “24 hours” and “Struma” on the other hand intensify the exploitation of the child’s images during festive events. ”
“In general, students are aware of the problems in capturing images of children. However, the influence of the media seems to be stronger than that of education. Students “learn” established models used in television; models from the yellow press are also sneaking in, ”he said Prof. Snezhana Popova, co-author of the report.
You can watch a recording of the official presentation of the report, broadcast live on the Facebook pages of the organizers, here:
Researchers have found differences in the frequency of children’s presence in the media according to their age, with an important tendency for the youngest to be present too often (and silently) thanks to their parents (including celebrities) – almost as much as teenagers (who are presented with voice)
“The SACP supervises the work of social workers who support families on individual cases, but we are also ready to support public debates and cooperation between professionals, the non-governmental sector and the media in the name of common standards for working with children,” said Mr. Georgi. Ivanov, chief expert in the “Policies and Programs for the Child, Strategic Development and Coordination” Directorate in the SACP.
“In the speed of work or pressed by the pursuit of exclusivity and ratings, colleagues often forget the principles of ethical reflection, which we have discussed together and which otherwise stick to. Discussing cases in the editorial room remains a priority. That is why there is a great need for upgrading trainings for both journalists and students. And it is high time to have shows and online formats in which children and young people create content for their peers, “said Nadia Obretenova from BNT.
Journalist Maria Milkova also stressed the importance of “journalists discussing with each other, exchange experiences, be sensitive and pay attention to both the technical aspects of the coverage and their overall attitude towards children and young people ”.
“For me, beyond the important topic of preserving the identity of children at risk, we need to discuss more and more how media content affects children’s psyche, their opinions and attitudes,” said Daniela Kasovska from BNR. The young journalist from the sCOOL Media platform Christian Yulzari asked the media and society to listen more often to the opinions of children and young people and “to show different aspects of our lives, not just the topic of violence, for example, which is sometimes overexposed.” According to Katerina Vasileva from sCOOL Media, the training of young people, including in media literacy, can help them defend their rights and be a corrective to the media in such situations.
With the expansion of publicity through social networks, we are entering the phase of realizing that the public “life” of the photographed children is equally dangerous in both the media and social networks. One of the tasks of the media should be to insist on maintaining the boundaries between socially and privately, which are increasingly blurred, the authors of the report emphasize.