French Journal For Media Research

Maria Agustina Sabich et Gabriel Dvoskin

Children and youths in the center: media representations, discursive tensions and pedagogical dimensions in graphic, audiovisual and digital supports. Introduction

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1What relations do the media propose with childhoods and youth? What kind of tensions and difficulties are evident? What are the links that technologies establish with children in contemporary times? These are some of the questions that motivated the preparation of the dossier, in which, we try to outline the complexity and the specificity of the phenomenon. By the way, following Carli, Salviolo (2013) proposes that the childhood´s images refer us to the form of child presence in the social world. Some of them are long-standing and others are unpublished, as they represent the adjustment and globalization processes that many countries are going through. Thus, inspired by the author’s proposals, this dossier starts from a childhood and youth conception that has varied over time as historical and social constructions. In this sense, we could note that the scientific-technological acceleration, the spectacularization of the child experience, the constant commodification and mediatization processes, the homogenization and cultural heterogeneization phenomena and the tensions between progressive and neoliberal policies have a considerable impact in child´s identity (Carli, 2006). But, and also, faced with an increasingly globalized and digitized scenario (Ortiz, 2004), contemporary childhoods are crossed by a technological environment that gathers the following attributes: creates new communication and interaction styles, generates new playful forms of learning, promotes different dynamics of literacy, generates spaces for the identity construction and emphasizes different participation and intervention logics in social and political life (Buckingham, 2012). Indeed, there is a consensus among some theorists in understanding that the notion of “literacy” requires some distance from the “restricted conceptions” –with only reading and writing have prominence–, in order to assign priority to the “open conceptions” –where mass media, new screens, technological devices, and literate artifacts are central in children and youth experiences– (Sabich, 2021; Scolari, 2016; Buckingham, 2012; Duek; 2012; Cassany, 2008; Gee, 2008; Livingstone, 2007). Undoubtedly, the current global socio-health situation caused by Covid-19 and the ways in which the pandemic permeates social practices invites us to reflect on the new scenario where children and youth´s formal education is also developed in the mass media (Götz, Mendel & Lemish, 2020). At the same time, the adult roles acquire centrality and merit careful analysis.

2As we presented in the title of this dossier, the proposal is connected with the conceptual and creative principle named children in the center, a philosophical initiative created by Jan-Willem Bult, who served as director of the Dutch channel KRO until 2013. Children in the center means, among other issues, that children and young people have spaces where they can express themselves and also where they are enabled to tell their own stories, situation that differs from those instances in which they are used to tell the adults´s stories. At the same time, the principle is based on the notion of “quality”, which refers to the presence of an aesthetic configuration that constructs other representations of childhood and youth in the mass media; an aesthetic that should necessarily move away from gender roles and hegemonic stereotypes that, frequently, mass media reproduce, many times, influenced by advertising but not exclusively (Götz, Reich & Speck-Hamdan, 2009). In fact, the most recent papers examine the different dimensions that children and youths have as addressees –just to mention a few of them, we refer to the legal, the educational, the psychological, the sociological and the anthropological studies and those who contemplate gender perspectives–; indeed, the trend indicates the importance for interdisciplinary research about these problems.

3For this reason, far from taking a restricted point of view between children and technologies, in this dossier we adopt an open perspective that not only includes the concept of chidhood “in plural”, but also that it takes distance from an apocalyptic perspective around the link between technology and media. Although we are aware that the media behave as agents of transmission that convey social, cultural and political values (Sepulchre, 2009), we also believe that such devices operate as models that install socialization practices, from which children and young people build their own identity and engage socio-affectively with others. On the other hand, following Kohan (2009), the term “childhood” comes from the Latin that translated means “absence of speech” and means that for the ancient Romans children could only speak and express themselves legally through those who exercised parental authority (the pater or guardian). On the contrary, talking about “childhood” in the plural implies positioning oneself from a different place, paying attention to the different institutional interventions that act on the child subjectivity and family, producing in this way, different social types of children, according to historical, economic and political contexts (Moreno, 2014).

4So, in an audiovisual and digitized environment that configures an heterogeneous and specialized audience, in this dossier we propose different kind of articles that explore the graphic, audiovisual and digital media characteristics that have children and youth as addressees. This includes the analysis of the possible relationships among literature, pedagogical discourse, preventive discourse, multimodal discourse, mass media, reception studies, and new literacy means. By the way, the Latin American researchers as Duhalde (2017), Fuenzalida (2016), Salviolo (2013) and Carmona (2012) are associated to a view in which mass media have to recognize children and young people as “subjects of law” and as symbolic and material producers of the societies where they live. From this perspective, children are not certain people who will be potentially “something” in the future, but rather they are historical and social actors with their own concerns, questions and conflicts at the present time. In this sense, the meaning of “childhood” and “youth” does not indicate, necessarily, be “less adult”, but rather constitutes a living experiencie over the years (Kohan, 2007 and 2009). This is because, as we presented before, within the scope of children audiovisual production, there is an important criterion named “quality”: for Salviolo (2013), quality is not reduced to the presence of children and youth on the screens, but also, to the connections that mass media propose with their experiences, which implies the awareness about all those bonds that they have with home life, neighborhood, community, friendships, games, school and political practices.

5In addition to these considerations, the dossier recovers a non-chronological and non-biological conception of childhood (Kohan, 2009). As the author argues, the time of childhood is an aionic time; it is an alternative temporality in which play, immersion, friendship, thought and repetition prevail. The opposite of this instance is chronos or chronological time: the clock, science, school, calendars are marked by this temporality, installed by the time of technology, modernity and technology (Agamben, 2009). In the author’s words: “childhood is not a stage that is overcome (...); rather than a phase in which the word is acquired is a latent state that inhabits all the words spoken, those of [subjects] of all ages” (Kohan, 2009, p. 21). The proposal invites us to reflect on the durability and permanence of childhood throughout the life cycle of a person, a permanence that is reactivated, undoubtedly, from the images that the media narratives propose and that dwells in the memory of the subjects. At the same time, all over the world, children and young people are directly or indirectly affected by aspects such as poverty, violence, marginality and social exclusion. These are phenomena that place newcomers in a position of inferiority and subalternity from the beginning, tracing an unavoidable biography (Redondo, 2015). Indeed, the author highlights the importance of consolidating spaces that receive, protect and contain them.

6So, the article wrote by Laura Gabriela Kievsky: The tender child and the young immature. an age perspective analysis of the hegemonic media representations of Harry Potter fans explores the representations of children, teenargers and young Harry Potter fans that are put in circulation in the hegemonic mass media in Argentina. The analysis of multimodal discourses (television programs and graphic press) shows that coexist different images of these actors according to their ages, with different values, which brings up a tension between them.

7On the other hand, the text proposed by Greta Winckler: Popular infancies and visual sovereignty: different uses and affects towards fictional character Zamba (Argentina) invites us to reflect on the discriminatory and stigmatizing uses that are based on the pieces of communication that circulate in social networks. In particular, the author studies the memes circulation and political uses of the character “Zamba”, a kid from the animated series La asombrosa excursión de Zamba of the children´s channel Pakapaka.

8From an approach that is closer to the reception instance, the manuscript proposed by Cielo Salviolo and Carolina Di Palma: Discursive interpellation, metadata and algorithmic combinations in digital interfaces: new strategic political meanings for thinking about public digital convergence and new rights of children reflects on the transformations of contemporary sensibility by conceiving digital technology as a new technicality in a non-instrumental way. The article presents a research developed in the Province of Buenos Aires (Argentina) during 2020.

9Finally, the text developed by Hassan Ennassiri and Ghita Derkaoui: L’enfant face à la télévision: L’Ecole des fans, entre réception et influence analyzes the children’s program L’Ecole des fans, a French TV show that was hosted by Jacques Martin from 1976 to 1998 and issued by Antenne 2, then by France 2. The authors resume a long debate about the influence of the media in the audiences and wonder about the conditions of sociability that the media produce in children. To do so, they based on a mixed approach which combines both survey with parents and adult interviews with children.

10As can be seen, the texts that accompany this dossier are nourished by a diversity of approaches and theoretical contributions that come from communication, cultural studies, anthropology, semiotics and studies on the image. At the same time, approaches cover areas that characterize contemporary social discourse with the aim of relieving children and youths’s performances and stressing the place of the media in the current media scenario, a place that, far from being pristine or aseptic, affects the beliefs and the imaginaries of society, deepening inequality relations.


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To quote this document

Maria Agustina Sabich et Gabriel Dvoskin, «Children and youths in the center: media representations, discursive tensions and pedagogical dimensions in graphic, audiovisual and digital supports. Introduction», French Journal For Media Research [online], Browse this journal/Dans cette revue, 16/2021 Children and youths in the center, last update the : 02/02/2022, URL :

Quelques mots à propos de :  Maria Agustina Sabich

Maria Agustina Sabich

Buenos Aires University, Argentina

Quelques mots à propos de :  Gabriel Dvoskin

Gabriel Dvoskin

Buenos Aires University, Argentina



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