November 03, 2011

Lemish helps create child-friendly media resources

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- While various forms of media can often send the wrong messages to children, recent work by a Southern Illinois University Carbondale professor will highlight how media can communicate positive messages to children on an international level.

For more than three years, Dafna Lemish, chair of SIU Carbondale’s Department of Radio-Television, has been working on a project through UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, to put together a communications resource pack aimed at children that is age appropriate and child-friendly.  The resource package that Lemish and internationally known media for development specialist Barbara Kolucki put together will be unveiled tonight (Nov. 3) and Friday, Nov. 4, in an international launch at UNICEF House in New York City.

In addition to being age-appropriate for several levels of children, the resource package, “Communicating with Children: Principles and Practices to Nurture, Inspire, Excite, Educate, and Heal,” provides “central principles” for producing children’s media that is child-friendly, positive, holistic and inclusive, Lemish said.  The resource package is available online at

The project is part of UNICEF’s Communication for Development Unit.

The material provides practical guidelines, tools, and immediate examples for UNICEF officials, educators, parents, media producers, and others in developing age-appropriate and inclusive materials for using communication to better children’s lives.  Many of the children are vulnerable and marginalized and live in low-income countries, in disaster areas, or conflicted societies, Lemish said.

Lemish said she and Kolucki received permission from about 80 different video producers, authors and artists to use examples of their videos, books, and posters on the website at no charge.

“People around the world will be able to go to the website, learn about what we are suggesting in developing quality communication for the well-being of children, and also see examples of the good practices we are trying to promote,” Lemish said.  The communication can take all forms, including posters, radio programs, documentaries, animation, books, puppet shows and oral stories, she said.

“Often the concern we hear about media and children is the negative effect, such as violence, obesity and passivity,” Lemish said.  “There is always concern about the media affecting children negatively.  Here were looking at it from the other side -- how can we use media for positive benefits to improve children’s lives?

The principles and guidelines are organized by different age groups and illustrated by positive examples from many countries using different types of media, Lemish said. The resource package will be “very accessible,” she said.

Lemish is an international scholar on the media’s role in children’s lives.  She came to SIU Carbondale in July 2010. Her 2010 book, “Screening Gender on Children’s Television: The Views of Producers around the World,” which she utilizes in her class, has what she describes as “eight working principles for change.”  The concepts involve equality, diversity, complexity, similarity, unity, family, authenticity and voicing.

Lemish said it is an honor to be part of a project that she hopes will better the lives of children around the world.  The applied research allows her to go beyond the “four walls of our classrooms and journal articles we write,” she said.

“It’s really been an inspiring opportunity,” she said.  “It’s extremely gratifying to be able to make a difference in the world and I’m proud and happy about this.  I’m hoping it fulfills its purposes.”