Children on Television Programmes: In between Bullying and Use for Marketing Purposes

This article initially appeared on Reporting Diversity Network 2.0.

By Dorentina Hysa and Kristina Lani, Albanian Media Institute

In the programme “T’ka mami yll” (“You’re mom’s star”) a “reality show” dance program for children aged 10-15 years, broadcast on ABC News television, the inappropriate treatment of a child has been identified due to her body weight.

Jury members consistently link the presence of the 8-year-old girl in the program to her excess weight.

Some of the questions addressed to the child are: “Why did you come here?”; “Are you sure [you came to dance]?”; “What do you like better, eating or dancing?”; “Would you give up food to dance?”

Further still, jury members create situations where the child is asked to eat sweets in public, or where they toy with her with eating chips. Her existence in the program is solely reduced to food and eating.

The public has reacted to this treatment of the child by condemning the adults’ behaviour, their bullying and psychological violence against her, due to her weight, or nutritional problems.

After the public’s reaction, two members of the jury reacted by explaining that “they had no denigrating or bullying intentions towards the child,” with whose parents they had a close friendship.

“Liana is the daughter of a friend of mine. She has been present at the academy for 6 months, not at all with the aspiration to become a ballerina, but handed over to me by her father for health reasons. This means that the child has nothing to do with ballet, but only to exercise physically, to give up food, because this generation does not eat healthily.”

The actions that adults perform in the program are contradictory to what they express verbally. Giving sweets, canned juices and chips are not equivalent to healthy eating. In addition to being the object of bullying in their eyes, the child is also used for marketing purposes, which affect her psychological, physical, emotional and social well-being.

Treating the child in such a way becomes a trigger and incites social bullying, lowers self-esteem, promotes anxiety, as well as negatively affects the child’s performance in many other areas.

According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Albania, the child must be guaranteed protection from any action that affects his social, spiritual and moral well-being, as well as his physical and mental health. Children in the media enjoy special protection, according to Albanian legislation and the “Code of Ethics of Albanian Media.” Under no circumstances should one “benefit” from children, nor should they be asked questions about “personal matters” in the absence or without the consent of their parents.

The State Agency for the Rights and Protection of the Child is one of the public institutions that must ensure the guaranteeing of this protection, together with the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA).

AMA has already made a request to ABC News television to stop practices where the moral and legal requirements for the protection of children’s rights have not been respected, in accordance with law 97/2013, article 4, point 1/c, as well as articles 5.38 and 5.41 of the Broadcasting Code, which specify the special treatment and care that children should enjoy in audiovisual broadcasting.

Reporting Diversity Network 2.0 condemns any behavior or action that promotes bullying and the abuse of children in the media. At the same time, it calls for proactive actions undertaken by accountable institutions in order to improve the situation of child treatment in the media, so that such incidents do not recur.

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