This is a strang one, we’ll grant you. CBeebies isn’t exactly high brow entertainment and social work is no joke. Surely the two shouldn’t mix. But (as part of a series of combined efforts) CBeebies might actually be a helpful tool in keeping young children safe. Their programmes may be cartoon based a lot of the time or deal with childish themes, but actually that’s just what some children need. Children don’t always appreciate in-depth language or complex terminology, so they need channels where things are kept simple. The benefit for those looking to safeguard is that actually, within the simple set up, there’s a chance to introduce children to some worthwhile subject matter.
We’ve all had that moment when we rewatched a film or tv show from years ago and suddenly realised all the adult content it was actually dealing with without us noticing. We just absorbed it all subconsciously. That’s still happening, and the beauty is that now so many more children are hooked on tv shows. Weirdly, this is a case when technology can help safeguard. If you get a young child obsessed with a fun programme that they simply ‘must’ watch every week, then actually you’ve won yourself a captive audience for whatever material you want to introduce.
CBeebies do this in a variety of different ways. They hold active and “obvious” campaigns, like their anti bully week where the content looks to educate children and promote positive behaviour. There are also more subtle moves like their Bedtime Stories where celebrities read children (and any watching adults) a bedtime story. Sounds like there’s not much safeguarding happening but remember, all fairy tales and fables have morals. They are cautionary tales and recommendations for how to be a good person. So by promoting these positive values under the veil of characters and stories CBeebies are able to engage with young people and teach them about the world without hurting their childlike wonder.
And it’s of course not just CBeebies. There’s so much content out there that benefits children’s and the safeguarding process parents and practitioners go through. They tell stories of people from different backgrounds, who go through different experiences and learn about growing up in different environments. Tracey Beaker is in care. The Muppets overcome their differences to work together. Wreck it Ralph is bullied but finds friends and learns self respect. Modern day Disney princesses become feminist heroes and rescue themselves (and their princes too!). The list goes on and on.
So why not fully embrace this idea and put concentrated effort into it? Why not combine the people actively working to safeguard children with this global medium of communication? It feels like an untapped resource to an extent because at this point in time, content is decided by producers or directors who want to tell a fun story or keep viewership high. So why not give them a level of guidance from those in the know about the key dangers facing children and the valuable ways to look after them. In the same way we have historical consultants on period films and shows, why not make sure there are social workers involved in the process of communicating with children? Let’s start making sure that the messages we’re sending out are not only positive but framed in the right way and working alongside our brilliant social work sector.