Children and the Media: A Challenge for Educations is the theme of Pope Benedict XVI's message for the 41st World Communications Day which most local Churches celebrate on Sunday. In the message issued as customary on 24 January the Feast of the patron saint of journalists Francis de Sales, the Pope says the theme is an invitation to reflect on two related topics: " The formation of children is one. The other, perhaps less obvious but no less important, is the formation of the media." Today the media has considerable influence in the field of education, " indeed, some claim that the formative influence of the media rivals that of the school, the Church, and maybe even the home ". The Pope says 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". The Pope underlines " training in the proper use of the media is essential for the cultural, moral and spiritual development of children." This task concerns parents the Church and the school. Parents " have a right and duty to ensure the prudent use of the media by training the conscience of their children to express sound and objective judgements which will then guide them in choosing or rejecting programmes available " and in this task they " should have the encouragement and assistance of schools and parishes". "Media education should be positive" the Pope says. " Children exposed to what is aesthetically and morally excellent are helped to develop appreciation, prudence and the skills of discernment Beauty, a kind of mirror of the divine, inspires and vivifies young hearts and minds, while ugliness and coarseness have a depressing impact on attitudes and behaviour." The Pope here underlined the value of the example of parents and that education to the media demands "formation in the exercise of freedom". "So often freedom is presented as a relentless search for pleasure or new experiences. True freedom could never condemn the individual - especially a child - to an insatiable quest for novelty. In the light of truth, authentic freedom is experienced as a definitive response to God's 'yes' to humanity, calling us to choose, not indiscriminately but deliberately, all that is good, true and beautiful." "This heartfelt wish of parents and teachers 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." The Holy Father underlines that media operators are subject to pressure and commercial competitiveness, however " 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 trivialisation of human sexuality is a perversion, all the more repulsive when these programmes are directed at children and adolescents". The Pope appeals once again to 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 Message concludes recalling that the Church, "teacher of humanity" is called to offer assistance to parents, educators, communicators and young people: "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." Source: VIS
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