Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Media - Unlock the Secrets of Advertising to Combat Violence: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Media - Unlock the Secrets of Advertising to Combat Violence: News

Article excerpt

Teach children to decode 'toxic' imagery, campaigner urges.

Schools must teach media literacy so that students can decode "toxic" images in advertising that contribute to violence against women, according to a world-leading expert in the relationship between advertising and public health.

US campaigner Jean Kilbourne, a feminist author and film-maker, believes that education can play an important role in combating domestic abuse and sexual violence against women.

"Very dangerous attitudes about sex and violence have become normalised in our culture," Dr Kilbourne said during a visit to the UK. She cited a 2005 Scottish study of 1,400 teenagers showing that a substantial minority believed that violence was acceptable in relationships in certain circumstances.

This is a "public health issue", just as smoking used to be, Dr Kilbourne told an audience in Edinburgh. "Just as it is difficult to be healthy in a toxic physical environment, so it is difficult to raise healthy children in a toxic cultural environment."

Dr Kilbourne said that education paved the way for a cultural shift around smoking that until fairly recently had seemed unthinkable, leading to a widespread ban on smoking in public places and heavy restrictions on tobacco advertising. Equally, teaching media literacy in schools is essential to help combat advertising's pernicious influence, she argued.

Not only is sex used to sell "almost everything", according to Dr Kilbourne, but in recent years there has been a growing tendency in advertising - paralleled in music videos and computer games - to "trivialise and eroticise violence against women". The film-maker also raised concerns about the ease with which children can now access pornography.

A study by children's charity the NSPCC, commissioned by The Daily Telegraph, this week reported that almost a third of school students believe that internet pornography influences how young people behave in relationships.

The warning from Dr Kilbourne comes as the numbers of students opting to take media studies at schools in the UK fell this year, with young people increasingly choosing more traditional academic qualifications. At A level, the number of entries for media, film and television studies fell by 9. …

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