Thinking about the Future of Children and Media Part3. DISCUSSION


Sawai: Now I would like to call upon the panelists on the stage.
In 2004 one after another, crimes were committed by children of twelve and under. Since these children were exposed to advanced media, there have been discussions about the danger of such media, including the possibility of their distorting effort on child development. So I would like to hear from each of the panelists about this trend, that is, the media being regarded as a danger. I would also like to ask for your opinions about children's exposure to virtual reality. Children may not be able to tell the difference between the real world and the virtual world.

Iwatani: Adults tend to be more conservative; they cannot understand new media and look on them as an enemy. This is a tendency that we cannot deny.
I wonder to what extent adults understand the content of new media. Children read comic books, watch animation and play video games. Adults, however, do not look at individual content at all. They just say it is no good because the children are too engrossed. This is a general trend.
We tend to be short-sighted when we talk about media. However, since media has been with us for decades and centuries, we do not have to worry too much about the recent phenomena of the past one or two years. Children are not that stupid and they can absorb so many things. Adults should not intervene too much but should not desert their children either. There must be a proper sense of distance between them and their children.

Hirose: I have to admit that media is sometimes dangerous and can affect our lives to some extent. However, maybe this is not due to a single factor but to multiple factors. No single factor is very big; but if many of them are combined, this may lead to an unfortunate crime.....
But the reason why only media is often criticized is because it has new technologies that did not exist in the past.
We do not have effective tools to understand what we do not know very well. In that sense we must look at the overall picture. If we simply look at media saying that it is no good, we may lose sight of the whole picture.
As for your second point, I agree that some people get deeply involved in the world of virtual reality. Some are troubled by lack of sleep because of video games, and this is why media is regarded as something dangerous. But in fact the real and the virtual are not confrontational concepts. One may not be able to distinct between the virtual and the real.
For example, most people would say computer education is not good and they stand for classroom lessons. But a classroom, in a sense, is a simulation of the real world, so it is somewhat virtual. As a media person, I wonder why people wrapped up in the world of virtual reality are criticized while people wrapped up in sports are admired.

Yano: Why do we see things that we did not see in the past? The media itself is not the problem. The question is how to use it. As long as we can make the right decisions and pick and choose the technology, it should be fine. We need to pay our attention to situations that require individual judgments as to what decisions and actions to take to address our problems.
When there was no media, people used to talk to their families or community people. The world was narrow and closed in a sense, but there was an intimate interpersonal relationship, whether they liked it or not. Since they were seeing each other every day, they discovered good things about people they did not like, or got a precious advice from an unexpected person. Some people didn't like such involved relationships and moved to the city, but that is how we have lived.
I do not mean to say, however, that we should go back to those days. But I can also say that when people think of how their family might respond or disapprove of a certain action, this may stop them from doing something extreme. A small thing like this puts a brake on their behavior. I think we should look at media that way.

Sawai: Are there any questions or comments from the floor?

(Audience): One of the themes in yesterday's symposium was the pros and cons of media exposure for infants. Some pediatric academic societies recommended that children of two and under not be allowed to watch television or video games. I like to hear from the panelists on this point.

Iwatani: Two-year-olds are in a very sensitive stage of development. Whatever they do, whether it is studying, video games, or playing, if they do it for too long, it is out of balance. I'd like to see children learn to control their time with a sense of proportion to the extent possible. As for children, such as infants, who are not able to control their time, parents should be in charge of that. Balance is the key.

Hirose: I think that people can learn a lot through their media exposure including computers. It may be better for them to have media exposure as early as possible just like speaking English.
However, as other panelists say, there may be some danger in being exposed in early childhood when the brains are still young. In this case the only way to make it right is to increase the exposure little by little. What is very important here is that parents should watch their children carefully.

Yano: It is a very difficult problem. It really depends, so it is up to each individual in a sense. But personally, I tried not to let my children be too exposed. It is OK for them to watch TV, but we should never make television a babysitter. This is very important, because babysitting is child rearing.

Sawai: Thank you very much. I would also like to thank the audience. This concludes today's symposium.

Toru Iwatani
Game Creator, Namco Ltd.

Hiromi Seki
Chief Program Producer, Toei Animation Co., Ltd.

Naoaki Yano
Director, CyberLiteracyLab

Yoshiko Sawai
Director, Child Labo
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