Children and Media in Times of Conflict and War

Participation and Self-expression

In this 24-page article, Yael Warshel discusses the reception of a peace communication intervention designed to promote pro-social intergroup relations among young children during a period of political conflict. Warshel’s audience reception analysis was conducted in 2001 with the Jewish-Israeli child audience for the peace-building edutainment television programme “Rechov Sumsum/Shara’a Simsim” (hereafter: RS/SS), the Israeli/Palestinian version(s) of “Sesame Street”.

Conducted during a period of heightened hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians known as the Al-Aksa Intifada, this research was based on the observation that, despite adult concern about the impact of armed political conflict on children, “adults often neglect to discuss armed political conflict with children. They may…think children are impervious to the constructs of conflict or in need of sheltering from it and so fear raising the subject.”

To explore what contribution communication can make to build peace amongst children as a strategy for managing conflict, Warshel begins by describing the RS/SS television series. In the early 1990s, the United States-based Sesame Workshop (formerly known as Children’s Television Workshop), Israeli-Educational TV (IETV), and the Palestinian Al Quds Modern Media Institute embarked on co-production of RS/SS.

First broadcast in April 1998, the series presents messages of mutual respect and understanding in an effort to help children better understand their own culture and that of others. Designed to break down cultural stereotypes by familiarising Israeli and Palestinian children with each other, the show integrates educational messages within an entertaining, magazine-type format that includes animation, live-action documentaries, and studio segments.

Outreach materials for schools based on RS/SS have also been developed. Warshel explains, this project was one of many so-called people-to-people projects at the time that sought to create peace from the ground up between the local populations. Read the full review article

Source: The Communication Initiative, November 05 2007.

The original article was published in: Lemish, D., and Gotz, M. (Eds.) Children and Media at Times of Conflict and War (pp. 309-332). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press. For more information about the article, please contact Yael Warshel, Lecturer and Doctoral Candidate at the Department of Communication, University of California at San Diego: ywarshel@yahoo.com

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