Monthly Archives: October 2013

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Event hastag: #wmnkids

I know that this is an long write-up, but today’s fantastic event really deserves it!

It’s taken a lot of emails and turning over of ideas to get our CASBAA panel topic and guests just right. Recognising that we create the world in which we live, especially with such strong media influences, we will look at how today’s media affect our children – tomorrow’s leaders – how it shapes our thoughts, how children consume media and how they then see the world.


 

Our panel is made up of moderator and CNN International anchor/ correspondant, Kristie Lu Stout, with panel members: Christine Brendle, founding partner of Kids Dailies Limited and non-executive independent director of The Red Flag group; Jeremy Hall-Smith, Managing Director, Persuasive Networks Ltd; Jay Oatway, leading social media authority in Asia-Pacific; Alice Wilder, Educational Psychologist. 

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Lu-Stout opens the event admitting that as a youngster she watched it all, from Degrassi Junior High and Duck Tales to prime time shows like Golden Girls – totalling about five hours of media content a day. Now, we have more screens and different devices, on top of the web, apps and video games.

While second screen viewing is common, it’s something we didn’t experience as children. Wilder says that media kids can access as much media as they like. But she points out that kids don’t change – media does. “Their developmental needs and the impact media has on them doesn’t change, despite all these devices,” she says. Even from pre-school and early primary, children access things like YouTube and play with apps via their parents’ devices. What is the impact?

Defining ‘impact’, we look at language development. According to Brendle, from birth to five, parents push tablets and are proud at how fast children learn to use the right kind of technology, say for for language acquisition, especially when learning more than one language or how to write.

But after that age, parents want children to use pen and paper and take away access to the tablet. It’s a confusing message for children. “This needs reconciling. Our children’s minds will be different if they don’t learn to write the way we did, that’s part of how our brains develop, through tracing and copying.”

For Oatway, it’s about parental choices. Digital devices feel like unchartered waters when it comes to child rearing. “We’re weary of just plopping our kids in front of the TV and apps,” he says. There’s so much content now, accessible on so many devices that you have to co-view.

Lu points out that parents now curate what their children see, which was not such a factor in the past. Managing what your children watch or what app they use takes time to research and curate, Outway points out. But some apps and games are developed for learning and can be used well. Another point is that parents don’t often use parental locks, but typically the same device is used around the house, so kid can and will access programs used by adults too.

“What’s allowed into your house?” asks Wilder. It’s true, you wouldn’t have just any babysitter but the screen acts as one.

Do you converse with your child about what they have seen and what they feel about it? For instance, a program like Wilder’s Cha-Ching Money Smart Kids, which teaches financial literacy to 7-12 year olds, might encourage a child to talk about money with their parents, learning about something important.

But Wilder points out, conversations at school, even if your child didn’t see it, gives an experience of it. Hall-Smith re-iterates: Most parents don’t engage with their children over their TV viewing. “It’s more ‘I don’t have time at the moment,’ than a tool for discussion”. Perhaps in truth, we don’t approve of screen babysitting.

 

Kids online
Children going online is another media issue for parents. “In the past, it was the geeky kid who went online but now, all kids might do that, finding friends online who like what they like.” says Oatway, He says benefits include increasing self esteem. On top, the social currency is that you find things online that you talk about in the playground, making you cool and part of a group. It’s cool to be geeky.

Using Twitter in the classroom has also been positive according to Wilder. Young children learn about communication and if they tweet out, parents can see it and know what their child did that day, but also, children learn how to write messages and share their day.

Cyber bullying is a recent and heavy issue. Currently the story of three girls in Florida is all over the news. This unchartered territory is one that parents will have to watch this as their kids grow. But Oatway says “social media is open and transparent so cyber bullying isn’t secret – it’s not the back alley behind school, so why is this happening?”

If anything, social media should teach kids to be open and friendly but also learn how to build the right network of reliable friends and reach out if something bad happens. An issue that Oatway points out is that media is changing so fast that some children haven’t known to reach out and nor have adults been aware of the issues. Bad things have happened. Wilder reconfirms her belief that parents are responsible for discussing their kids activities with them: What have they been doing? Why? Perhaps again, the issue here, is lack of time.

Children’s digital footprint and privacy are another issue for Internet use. Online privacy classes might well be taught in schools eventually, alongside sex ed. “Being online and private depends on what network you use,” says Oatway. Twitter can be private, but Facebook is harder to manage in terms of managing privacy. But he advocates that Google + and Facebook encourage the use of real names, which leads for a more bona fide online friend. “The worst online trolls usually hide behind an anonymous mask. Here’s another conundrum: We want privacy but we also want transparency.”

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Copying what’s on screen – or do ratings matter?
In China a video of two boys were caught having tied a nine year old to a tree and set fire to him. They were copying a cartoon. But Hall-Smith points out that this is no different to the Three Stooges, it’s not new media.

Video games are something that parents and producers both consider when it comes to age appropriateness – and laws ensure that. But does that thought reach further? “There’s no longer a separate bubble of adult and child content,” says Brendle. Lu-Stout steps into the discussion with an anecdote: This conversation happens regularly at CNN International, who have recently introduced a “WARNING” alert on screen so that parents can stop their children from seeing inappropriate news content.

Rating systems or lack thereof matter – TV and apps are ungoverned, but broadcast is much more regulated than digital. Oatway says, “digital has a better chance of fixing this issue than broadcast will, because as people increasingly log into content via a social media account like Facebook, the channel or media source can identify the supposed age of that user. TV doesn’t have that luxury.”

Hall-Smith quips, “you’re pre-supposing that those running such platforms have an interest in verifying the age of the person behind the account. Children will subvert any controls they can. The genie is out of the bottle and always has been. Look at what they’d do to get GTA!”

Brendle reminds us again, “we need to consider what needs to be protected from the past, from traditional roles of education.” Her concern is less over morals but what brain activities, what stimuli we know works. Wilder adds that technology is just another tool, nothing else. Pre-schoolers are curious and are life-long learners, so as adults creating content we should capture that, and use technology to help. The invention of the printing press didn’t make everyone an author. The invention of the camera didn’t make everyone a director.

 

If you have thoughts, questions or readings to share, please talk to us via our social media accounts.

@wmnasiapacific

www.facebook.com/WMNAPAC

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This blog was guest written by an adorable, energetic and sweet friend of mine. I had no idea that this woman, who works for our sponsor, Turner, was also into stage performances! So, when she told me one Sunday that she was working on a play about maids who want to kill their boss, of course I wanted to go! Then, she told me that the two lead roles of the maids were written to be performed by men, a wish that had rarely been carried out. Ok, now she really had my interested. And then the other conversation came up – how does she do that, and her full time job? Can she have it all?

– Vickie, WMN

 


 

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Having a full time job in Television, like most jobs in Hong Kong really, means long hours. And in a competitive environment like ours it also means a lot of mental energy invested towards that job.

I chase a career, which I love, spend time with my husband and go to the gym sporadically. I could consider myself underachieving, compared to women who are doing it all. Those marathon-running, brownie-baking, soccer-mum, investment bankers. And that’s usually ok.

I write usually, because there is a part of me that lies untapped that I wish I had time to expand on. A part that is too exhausted to get up and do it. And that’s my love of theater and more importantly my love of directing for stage. Owning the stage is a part of me, an integral core of ‘me’.

The stage is my medium of expression and art. I see the space and shape of a stage and think of a script. ‘Could I perform

here?’ I see actors and think ‘how can I mold them?’ I see spot lights and imagine them cast as shadows. I see the empty seats and think ‘how can I engage the audience?’

But my full time job means I can never do justice to a script. To perform a script is to live, breathe and feel the script . And as a director it becomes all-consuming.

I had nearly given up on my dream to direct, when a month back, the phone rang and out of the blue I got an offer to co-direct a script. Sometimes when the opportunity to live your dream appears in front of you, don’t rationalise or evaluate, just jump right in. I jumped in and said YES. And then rather belatedly remembered I hadn’t asked what the piece was which is not the deep thinking director I thought myself to be. Content is King and Script is Prime.

And then a panic stricken realisation that I had said YES to an insanely short timeline to put together a performance for the public!

Don’t think, just make a commitment and move ahead to make it happen.

Lucky for me the script turned out to Jean Genet’s classic The Maids. And the most intriguing thing about this play is the fact that Genet wanted the two female leads to be played by men.

As the protagonists perform their roles, they also role-play. They act out their anger, their frustration and play-act their murderous plot. Through this maze of truth and lies, the audience is forever reminded that something is being performed for them. The illusion of reality is broken.

 

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I spent very real days at my desk at work and then surreal evenings directing female roles forgetting our actors were men. Weekends spent discussing hair and make-up, costumes and props.

I am sleep deprived but feel like I have run a marathon too. I did it all in my universe.

As the play opens in November, I will feel like a proud mother. Whatever the outcome, its my baby and she is amazing!

 

The Maids runs from November 6th-9th at the Hong Kong Arts Centre. To book tickets to see The Maids, contact Urbtix

 

Tina is Associate Director Sponsorship and Promotions – Creative Brand Solutions at Turner International Asia Pacific Limited. Follow Tina’s blog.


 

 

If you have thoughts, questions or readings to share, please talk to us via our social media accounts.

@wmnasiapacific

www.facebook.com/WMNAPAC

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In advance of our CASBAA breakfast panel, Money, power, ratings…have we sold out at our children’s expense? we asked panel member, Christine Brendle from Kids Dailies to share a few thoughts with us.

 

Talking about media and kids, it helps me to go back to Marshall McLuhan’s Laws of Media and his “tetrad” to analyse any media effects on society.  In short, McLuhan called “media” anything extending our body or mind (radio extends the ear, TV the eyes and a computer the ability to make mental maths for instance). He suggests analysing the effect of a media by answering the four following questions:

  1. What does it enhance?
  2. What does it make obsolete?
  3. What does it retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
  4. What does it flip into when pushed to extremes?

Children working with keyboards for instance : the keyboard extends their hands, it makes learning to trace letter obsolete, it retrieves the written communication which had declined previously, when people used to communicate by phone more than by SMS. I am still not quite sure what it flips into when pushed to the extreme.

I find this framework useful when thinking about the consequences on children (up to 12 years old) of their extra consumption of media.

Children consume much more media than previously. So their minds will be shaped differently. For instance research shows that working to trace letters (with a different movement of the pencil for each letter) makes your brain work in a different way than pressing a keyboard (same click for each letter – just a different position on the keyboard). Different parts of the brain are activated by these two actions.

Educators currently argue that the “stability” of what is learned without the movement of the hand is not as strong. Others argue that being able to write independently earlier opens new possibilities that trump the “weaker stability”. I suspect the jury is still out on what will be the long term effects for children who will be allowed to use a keyboard early: Will they ever need to write? Or can we do without?

If children’s minds are going to be activated differently with new media, what are the areas of the brain activated in the old days, that we need to ensure are still activated in our children’s brains?

Having thought about this for a long time, I concluded that part of the brains activated by reading need to be preserved and cultivated. Beyond deciphering a text – which is a very unnatural task for our brains – reading fires up the areas of the brains controlling language and imagination which are fundamental to build an identity. So my work is gone in that direction – leveraging technology to make this unnatural learning process easier.

A final thought on this: At some stage it was thought that radio and TV would have huge positive implications for education. This did not happen in the end and McLuhan’s analysis was that the media impact on society is much more important than its content (for instance family sitting together every evening in front of the TV in the old days – more important than what they watched). I wonder what will the impact of constant entertainment’s availability be on society?

You may have seen this article, showing that YouTube is now more popular than Facebook for young kids… I cannot help thinking that it must be really hard for teachers to make a classroom as entertaining as YouTube these days!

 

If you have thoughts, questions or readings to share in advance of the event, please talk to us via our social media accounts.

@wmnasiapacific

www.facebook.com/WMNAPAC

LinkedIn group

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