Quality Criteria in Narrative and Script Writing for Children's Television (Ages 0-6)

By Fuenzalida, Valerio | Communication Research Trends, June 2017 | Go to article overview

Quality Criteria in Narrative and Script Writing for Children's Television (Ages 0-6)


Fuenzalida, Valerio, Communication Research Trends


This essay will review some changes that have taken place in literary creation and script writing for children's television directed to the 0-6 year-old group and will include a brief review of the evolution of mainly animation programs. These changes introduced new quality criteria for production and exhibition in socio-emotional television contents. The review will not reference aspects such as technology, management, and cost recovery. Some of the matters addressed in the essay might actually fit better in a workshop, a place more adequate than a paper since the essay cannot offer something fundamental: the exhibition of episodes of children's television programs referred to throughout the text. Because the text cannot include watching audiovisual programs, the reader will find it more difficult to understand the changes introduced in scripts. If possible, then, the reader should seek online examples of the programs discussed, to experience how the program producers address key issues.

This review addresses primarily Latin-American (and Third World) television professionals working in television script design and literary creation for children's audiovisual animation. The evolution of television narratives forms the pragmatic focus in this analysis. I will mention some academic interpretation about that evolution. The review will have recourse to a theoretic and methodological point of view in two ways: to research on child psychology and to semiotic representation analysis. Each science has its own methods and it is not easy to combine them or even to show how they complement each other. For example, semiotic interpretations provide an example of a qualitative methodology whose conclusions can form hypotheses for quantitative research such as occurs in psychology. One should also keep in mind the different academic schools of thought involved that produce different interpretations and even the occasional academic clash.

Current research on children's television distinguishes not only among children's ages, but also among the programs' intended content. For example, children's television includes entertainment programs ("Bugs Bunny"), prosocial programs ("Dora the explorer"), and academic instructional programs. In my opinion, these academic instructional programs require three conditions: consonance with the academic curriculum in the content, a special reception situation at the classroom, and an evaluation of the contribution to academic learning; these academic television programs are not the subject in this paper. Here the theme will be prosocial television programs primarily received at home and possibly in the classroom.

1. A Different Image of the Child

Greater theoretical discussion about quality criteria for children's television has emerged recently (Lauricella, Robb, & Wartella, 2013). In the '50s-'70s researchers discovered some formal audiovisual features as perceptually attractive for children; researchers could observe these features particularly in children watching television advertisements (sounds, fast pacing, visual effects, colors, etc.). One school of thought in children's television production emphasized formal attractiveness; they considered formal features determinant for children's attention to the screen. But some noted difficulties for small children to relate television content to personal and social life, a difficulty in content comprehensibility termed a "video deficit" (Heintz & Wartella, 2012). Research also showed that formal features needed to adequately match children's perceptual maturity according to their age (Kerkorian, Wartella, & Anderson, 2008; Anderson, 2004). Other research showed that children were active in front of screens: formal features on television served as a cue for children to explore the content (Huston & Wright, 1983); when children found the content comprehensible for them, their attention increased in relation to incomprehensible content, whether resulting from other languages, disordered editing, and so on (Anderson, 2004). …

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