Right from their very birth, children’s lives are being shaped by decisions made by their parents and also other adults who frequently come in contact with them due to their profession – doctors, teacher assistants, teachers, psychologists.
Expertise in the field of violence against children is not inevitable. It is, however, most important for us as professionals working with children, to have at least an overview about this issue and hence to be helpful not only in prevention, but also an early identification of a possible violence perpetrated on a child. In the same manner, it is important that we, albeit unknowingly, do not commit acts of violence against children. By choosing our profession, we have inherently acquired a certain deal of responsibility for the protection of children against violence.
“There are many terrible things in this world, but the worst is when a child is afraid of his father, mother or teacher.” (Janusz Korczak)
Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN) Syndrome is a set of particular forms of child maltreatment, that result in insufficient fulfilment of its basic needs – biological and emotional needs as well as the need to feel safe and secure, and thus a severe and even permanent disruption of development, personality, self-esteem and interpersonal relationships of the child. CAN Syndrome encompasses the most severe forms of violence, such as mental and physical violence, sexual abuse and neglect. You can read more about CAN Syndrome in the CAN Syndrome Guidebook compiled by the Central Office Labour, Social Affairs and Family (available in Slovak language).
Even us, people entitled to protect and help a child, may hurt it. In such a case we are talking about institutional violence. Misconduct and non-action of the stakeholders fall into this type of violence. They can take the form of not-abiding by legal norms, not following standard procedures, ignoring indications of violence and not considering the interests of the child. Secondary victimization is one of the most severe forms of institutional violence. Secondary victimization as a further victimisation of the child victim by professionals working with it (e.g. an investigator, a social worker, a teacher…) mainly relates to insensitive approach towards the child (e.g. unjustified elicitation of memories of the perpetrator’s attacks.
Bullying is an expression of proactive aggression (goal-oriented), it is a repeated and intentional harm inflicted upon a child by other children in the form of name-calling, teasing, intimidation, physical assaults etc. at school or outside school. Three main characteristics of bullying are: intentionality, persistence and imbalance of power (e.g. physical power, access to certain information, social status, popularity among other children, in case of cyberbullying also IT skills,…).
A child can be exposed to both, face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying simultaneously. Moreover, depending on the situation, a child can shift from one role to another (he/she can be a perpetrator, a victim, a witness, etc.). While intervening or speaking with children, resolving incidents and preventing further acts of bullying, it is important to bear these facts in mind.
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying carried out using new technologies which primarily builds on emotional and psychological abuse. Compared to “traditional” bullying it shares the three aforementioned characteristics, however, it differs by others: anonymity of assaults (in many cases the aggressor conceals his/her identity), enhanced lack of empathy (due to anonymity and detachment of the electronic context, the aggressor cannot see the victim’s emotional reaction), audience (assaults are witnessed by a wide up to unlimited range of spectators), time and space (assaults can continue over time, it can be difficult to delete the published information and photos).
Just like any other professionals, journalists are supposed to approach children – girls and boys, and child victims of violence in particular, in the light of a rights-based approach.
Matters related to children and children’s rights rarely catch media’s attention – this usually happens at particular seasons (e.g. the beginning of a school year) or when negative events and situations occur (e.g. cases of abuse or maltreatment). When presenting topics pertaining to particular children, media often do not take into consideration the rights of the child, they fall into stereotypisation and stigmatisation (e.g. children are portrayed solely in the role of a victim, not as rights-holders; children are referred to as a homogeneous group, while idiosyncrasies, e.g. of boys and girls, are diminished; or quite the opposite – trivial representations are utilized – such as of children from marginalised communities; “girly” and “boyish” activities, etc.). Professionals working in media also often omit the fact that children are an inherent part of their perspective audience.
What does a child rights-based approach mean in the context of journalism?
Getting acquainted with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and putting its articles into practice during interaction with child respondents, working up the materials and producing the final outcome
Although the media hold a key position in forming public opinions, not always do they fulfil this role in line with children’s rights. Journalists declaring good intentions in drawing attention to a problem and calling for solution, may themselves breach a child’s rights.
The importance of mass media both in access to information and in protection of a child from harmful content and materials is reflected upon by article 17 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Other articles journalists should pay attention to are articles 3 – the best interest of a child and article 16 – protection of a child from arbitrary or unlawful interference with their privacy.
A child rights-based approach is, in simple words, about soft skills and a framework for thinking built on the principles and values of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Child as an active participant, not a passive object
Children should be represented in the media, their opinions, feelings and viewpoints should be incorporated into reality depicted by journalists. Prior to conducting an interview or a(n) (audio)visual recording it is important to gain an informed consent of the child and their legal guardian. The consent should be given based on information from the journalist about the scope, intention and use of the final material.
However, in cases when children are victims of violence the risk of secondary traumatisation/victimisation of the child is to be thoroughly considered (in particular if the child has expressed disapproval with the interview, the journalist is not educated in the topic or is not skilled enough to conduct an interview with a child in an appropriate and sensitive way). In case of high risk that the interview will amount to the child’s secondary traumatisation, it is not in their interest to conduct it. If, in the progress of the interview, it is obvious that the child is being victimised by the questions, it is in their interest to terminate the interview.
Core principles of conducting an interview with a child:
Working up the material and its interpretation
Even in case of obtaining the consent of the child and their legal guardian you should consider which information you will eventually use so that you pose no threat to the child. It is also crucial to prevent any misinterpretation of information (caused e.g. by reinterpretation from the viewpoint of an adult or by conventional views of the issue).
Choosing appropriate visual material also requires a sensitive approach. While producing your own visual material or selecting from an already existing one, journalists should refrain from using shocking and distressing photographs/pictures explicitly showing violence merely to evoke emotional reactions.
In case the chid has been a victim of violence, it is a priority to protect their identity, i.e. provide only such information and only to such an extent (including visual material, e.g. omitting broad images of streets), that they make identifying the particular child impossible.
Exposing a child to public, often without their consent, can cause a long-term trauma and stigmatisation. In many cases, investigation may not yet be completed and early conclusions, e.g. about family members can traumatise the child (who is himself/herself coping with the fact that a close one hurt them).
After finalising the report, it is desirable, considering the age of the child, to present it to the child before eventual publishing/broadcasting.
Educating children towards media literacy and critical thinking is an inherent part of parents’ and teachers’ role. Yet, media and individuals working in media determine what culture of communication, presentation and visualisation of reality is being formed and reproduced, including whether the voice of children is heard.
A more thorough attention to the issue of reporting on children in line with the rights of the child has been paid abroad. You may find more information and materials here.
Protection of children from violence requires a strategic approach which consists in regular and intense communication of all stakeholders. Implementation of the National Strategy for the Protection of Children against Violence has brought about a key turnover by establishing a model of coordination meetings on the issues of violence against children. The model is described in detail in the guidebook Coordination of Child Protection against Violence (available only in Slovak language).
The fundamental principle of coordination meetings on violence against children is creating a space for personal encounters and communication. Just like the child who is a victim of violence needs to feel that it is not alone and there are people to turn to, also professionals working with children need to build and enjoy a communication network for the sake of cooperation with professionals from other fields. Mutual awareness achieved by sharing information and effective cooperation of all participating entities and individuals on the local level are prerequisites for improving prevention and early identification.
|Act on the Commissioner for Children and the Commissioner for People with Disabilities||
National Council of the Slovak Republic adopted the Act No. 176/2015 Coll. on the Commissioner for Children and the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities and on changes and amendments to certain acts.
The Commissioner for Children is involved in protection of children’s rights by supporting and enforcement of rights assigned to children in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Elected by the National Council of the Slovak Republic, the competence of the Commissioner for Children covers public administration authorities, legal entities and natural persons.
|Act No. 176/2015 Coll.|
|Act No. 176/2015 Coll. on the Commissioner for Children and the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities and on changes and amendments to certain acts||Act No. 176/2015 Coll.|
Information for registered users in Slovak only.
In case you have a suspicion that a child might be a victim of violence, it is necessary that you turn to:
It is important that you provide as much relevant information about the child and yourself as possible.