MRO, ECA launch “Reporting on Children Guide” for media Outlets

The Media Regulatory Office (MRO) at the Ministry of Culture and Youth and the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA) have launched a specialized guide featuring the best practices sfor covering children-related news. The guide aims to support local media outlets present a purposeful and constructive message to children and community members. It is also intended to enhance the influence of media messages on children in a way that helps fulfill their needs, develop their mental and physical abilities, and shape their personality, thus reaching the positive social impact sought by the wise leadership.

The guide was launched during a press conference held today at the Ritz-Carlton, Abu Dhabi. The conference was attended by H.E. Eng. Thamer Rashid Al Qasimi, Executive Director of ECA’s Special Projects and Partnerships Sector and Ibrahim Khadem, Director of the Media licensing and content Department at MRO, and representatives of local media. During the event, media representatives were briefed on the most important practices covered by the guide and ways to apply them by media organizations to advance their educational role.

In this regard, H.E. Eng. Thamer Al Qasimi, said: “Mass media plays a major role in promoting comprehensive and sustainable development. Without doubt, media is the most important tool used by governments and communities to drive the desired positive change. Hence, it is crucial for media outlets to keep pace with the developmental, preventive and curative efforts, as well as supporting all relevant plans, programs and efforts across all sectors.”

Al Qasimi noted that all age groups are exposed to and affected by all forms of media messages, either directly or indirectly. He, therefore, added that reporting on children may pose several challenges for this important category, representing about 21% of the total population of Abu Dhabi.

“The inappropriate media coverage of child-related news can affect some kids negatively. The same is true for parents, as this coverage may trigger their concerns about the safety and security of their children.”

According to Al Qasimi, ECA seeks, in collaboration with the MRO, to encourage all local media outlets to observe legal controls and good practices while covering issues involving children, especially for those below 9 years old. This is due to children in this age group are highly impacted by exposure to news stories, given their limited ability to understand the nature of things around them and their great curiosity.

From his side, Ibrahim Khadem said: “At the MRO, we always seek to engage with various media sectors to raise their awareness about the latest regulations for publishing media content, especially the digital news sector for its great impact on the public. Accordingly, we have partnered with ECA to work together on developing children-related content being published on various media outlets, especially digital and social media. This partnership will help media outlets report on children in a disciplined and right manner.”

During the conference, media representatives emphasized their keenness on adopting child-friendly media practices, implementing ethical and professional media standards, raising societal awareness of the early childhood sector, and educating the community about respecting and developing children capabilities.

The increased rates of social media usage by children worldwide underlines the importance of the guide, particularly as two-thirds of households are not applying any controls on the content their children are getting exposed to. Moreover, studies show that Abu Dhabi’s children spend longer time on digital devices, including TVs, mobile phones, tablets and computers, compared to recommended rates.

Furthermore, children are less able to accurately understand what is going around them. They need more clarification to better understand what is happening with other children. Therefore, media role is clearly evident in presenting facts to children in the best possible manner, ensuring they will benefit and learn from understanding such events. For the aforementioned, the guide presents some useful tips on developing children-related news stories or press reports using images or multimedia tools.

ECA is working on strengthening the child protection system from prevention to rehabilitation, as well as building capacities of parents and community members to support children’s needs and well-being. The Authority is also encouraging the adoption of children-related practices, developing relevant policies and legislation, implementing a proactive, evidence-based and actionable strategy to advance the early childhood sector.

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