01/24/2007, 00.00
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Pope: the media must respect children

In his message for the World day for social communications, Benedict XVI speaks of the “challenge” that the media pose to youth education. The role of those who have this duty, starting with parents, is education regarding freedom, a freedom that cannot be exclusively seen in terms of physical pleasure or new experiences.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The enormous reach of the mass media even amongst the youngest members of society and the weight it brings to bear on education, highlights the responsibility that rests on the shoulders of media moguls and journalists, but also on all those whose duty it is to teach.  So much so that “Any trend to produce programmes and products - including animated films and video games - which in the name of entertainment exalt violence and portray anti-social behaviour or the trivialization of human sexuality is a perversion, all the more repulsive when these programmes are directed at children and adolescents”.
 “Children and the Media: A Challenge for Education” is the theme chosen by Benedict XVI for the 41st World day for social communications, which will be celebrated this year on Sunday May 20th.  A message for the occasion was published today in which the Pope underlines that formation and education  in the practice of freedom. But “So often freedom is presented as a relentless search for pleasure or new experiences. Yet this is a condemnation not a liberation! True freedom could never condemn the individual – especially a child – to an insatiable quest for novelty”.
The Pope writes that the chosen theme, “invites us to reflect on two related topics of immense importance. The formation of children is one. The other, perhaps less obvious but no less important, is the formation of the media”. In a world in which “Reality, for many, is what the media recognize as real”, there are “some (who) claim that the formative influence of the media rivals that of the school, the Church, and maybe even the home”.
“The relationship of children, media, and education can be considered from two perspectives: the formation of children by the media; and the formation of children to respond appropriately to the media. A kind of reciprocity emerges which points to the responsibilities of the media as an industry and to the need for active and critical participation of readers, viewers and listeners. Within this framework, training in the proper use of the media is essential for the cultural, moral and spiritual development of children”. It is a “common good” which calls for responsibility on the part of all those who work in the area of education, first and foremost the parents, who form the conscience of their children “which will then guide them in choosing or rejecting programmes available (cf. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, 76). In doing so, parents should have the encouragement and assistance of schools and parishes in ensuring that this difficult, though satisfying, aspect of parenting is supported by the wider community”.
“Media education should be positive. – adds Benedict XVI - Children exposed to what is aesthetically and morally excellent are helped to develop appreciation, prudence and the skills of discernment”.
The desire of parents and educators to “educate children in the ways of beauty, truth and goodness can be supported by the media industry only to the extent that it promotes fundamental human dignity, the true value of marriage and family life, and the positive achievements and goals of humanity. Thus, the need for the media to be committed to effective formation and ethical standards is viewed with particular interest and even urgency not only by parents and teachers but by all who have a sense of civic responsibility”.
But while it is affirmed that “that many people involved in social communications want to do what is right”, it must also be recognised that  “many who work in this field confront special psychological pressures and ethical dilemmas(Aetatis Novae, 19) which at times see commercial competitiveness compelling communicators to lower standards”.
From this comes the appeal which concludes the message directed at “the leaders of the media industry to educate and encourage producers to safeguard the common good, to uphold the truth, to protect individual human dignity and promote respect for the needs of the family. The Church herself, in the light of the message of salvation entrusted to her, is also a teacher of humanity and welcomes the opportunity to offer assistance to parents, educators, communicators, and young people. Her own parish and school programmes should be in the forefront of media education today. Above all, the Church desires to share a vision of human dignity that is central to all worthy human communication.”. (FP)
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