Twisted Childhood: Portrayal of Children in media

Children. Often thought of as someone below the age of puberty and a person who still retains their innocence which most (if not all) adults don’t have. But here’s something to think about. Is the perception of “Children” we have today, the same as it was say 200 years ago in the 1800’s? As mentioned earlier, we see them as someone who is young and a stage of life that is separate from and adult.

Here is an image of a child in our modern era:

Notice how the child is wearing something that an adult would never wear.

Meanwhile we have something completely different from a child in the 1800’s

As you can see, the children in the image above are wearing quite similar clothes to the adults in the image. Very prim and proper clothes that look like a smaller sized version of what the adults are wearing. This brings to mind, what if our perception of children was just a state of mind? What if it was never a fact?

With all of that said however, how are children represented in media today? Despite us changing our state of mind on children, it seems when it comes to clothing, we are coming back to the same mindset that was present all those years ago. Children wearing clothes that have a similar design to clothes that adults wear. The main difference here is back then in the 1800’s, everyone was covered up completely. Whether it be man or woman, they were completely covered and that was the standard back then (as shown in the image above). But as the years have gone by, our standards have changed, our rules have adjusted to the mindsets we have now. And that is people can choose what they want to wear (Granted, there are still rules in place but that’s not the point). This lead to people wearing different things. Such as woman being able to wear short shorts, singlets, along with men wearing earrings. Here’s a range of clothes that woman wore back in the 20th century:

Image taken from http://www.tufts.edu/~mlee21/1900s.html

Then compare that image to something like this:

Image taken from http://spankingfairytales.blogspot.com.au/2014/05/current-fashion-trends.html

On top of this, there’s the issue of debate of art versus pornography. Now, this debate has been going on for years on what’s what. However, one of the main issues that arise is the use of children in art. More specifically children that are exposing skin (Cue police sirens). One of the popular cases showcasing this issue is the controversy with Bill Henson’s artwork on the 23rd of May 2008.

When it comes to something like the Bill Henson case, you have to think, “Is this the right way to approach this?” For example, one could argue that this is all about challenging the standards the modern society has set for this issue. But at the same time, is it right to take a picture of a child’s exposed body and display it at an art gallery? A person would generally think the answer is no.

How do you read images?

Depending on the language you’re reading, there are set rules on how to read words. You must pronounce words this way and have this accent. You have to read it in the correct way. There’s no deviating from those set rules when it comes to reading words. But does this apply to reading images? Chances are, the answer is going to be no. Why? There are no set rules on how to read images. The interpretation is up to the one taking in the image. This is why there’s so much debate on art and what it is. But this isn’t about what is art. Look below and you’ll see an image.

First of all, what is present in the image? There is an old man sitting down in a chair and is fishing inside his own home. He’s in a small room, full of furniture and he has quite the collection of photos on his wall. These are things that would be common in your average household. But aside from what is present in the image, there is also the placement of furniture, the art style and colours used. But what does all of this mean? Taking a look at the picture, the man looks like he’s living in solitude. Away from society, hence the grumpy expression on his face. The placement of the furniture conveys that this room is all he has. There is no other room that we’re not being shown. This is it. Notice how in that one room there is a fridge, kitchen, dining table, bed, TV and closet. Having all of those in one room tells us that.

Another thing to note, the art style. Everything is drawn so roughly and the colours themselves are very bland. However the sweater the old man is wearing is a bright red, contrasting everything else around him. This shows us that he is the salient feature in this still. This tells us as the viewer, to look at the old man, this image is about him. Another effect this art style has is that this tells us, it isn’t a happy time for the old man. This colour scheme, giving us the sense of loneliness, the old man’s grumpy expression. It all screams negativity.

Did you notice all of that? Yes? No? Now, do you agree with all the statements made about this picture? The words that have been used to explain the effects are “This conveys” or “This shows” as if to say that’s the definite answer on how to read the image. The fact of the matter is, it’s just one way of perceiving it. It’s just one way of how a person can look at the image. Everything mentioned may not apply to you as the reader. You may think otherwise and that’s perfectly fine. It is possible to read this image in a completely different way. As mentioned earlier there are no rules on how to read an image. Interpretation is entirely dependent on the knowledge and experiences of the viewer as some things may mean something completely different in one person’s mind compared to another. How do you read this image?

Modern media bad? Nonsense!

What are the current anxieties about the ‘effects’ of the media on people’s lives? Are these justified? How are they being presented in the media and by the media?

These questions have been present in people’s mind ever since the conception of media. To be specific, media such as TV shows, internet videos, magazines and books. Whenever a new thing is created, there are two ways to react to it. First, what are the positive effects of it? And second, what are the negative effects of it? With every new invention, it always brings something new to the table. Whether that something is good or bad is completely dependent on how people perceive it.

The internet and computers. A wonderful piece of technology that allows us to access a vast network of information from the comfort of our own home. It even serves other purposes such as allowing us interacting with friends in chats or letting us share information. How could technology like this be bad? Addiction, anti-social effects, straining the eyes, downloading illegal content. Despite the positives of the internet, it comes with it’s own set of negatives too. Because of this, the negatives were what people focused on. Just look at how the media presented it in TIME Magazine.

Notice how the child has an emotionless look while he's using the computer.

Film and video games are another form of media that have both positive and negative effects. Both are used for entertainment and can also be used to convey a specific message. Which is great for the creator. But with media that requires our attention and has the power of influence, it can be used to convey bad messages. Films and video games with graphic violence and sexual themes are generally looked down upon by quite a lot of people. People worry that media such as these influence people to do wrong or convey false information. Even things we consider entertainment have a downside.

Does it make sense for the public to be wary of new media despite positives? Yes, it does. But does this mean we should completely ignore and deny use of such media purely because of it’s negatives? No, of course not. Nothing by itself is evil. For example, films and video games may often at times have graphic violence or sexual content. It may sound bad that they have them but it’s all up to the user to decipher what information they’re being given. All they’re being give is information. How they respond to it is completely up to them. The media is very quick to blame films and video games for being the cause of crimes such as theft and murder. But they forget there are many factors that go into the cause of such crimes. Here’s an example of how the media portrays something like this.

Well, with new forms of media coming out every year there will always be the debate to find out if something is good or not. The main thing to remember is, to use it correctly.