Television as a shared space in the intercultural lives of primary aged children
This study is an examination of the ways in which primary aged refugee and migrant children use television and TV talk with their friends and family in processing and building their social worlds and in the formation of their identities. The study focuses on a small number of children from diverse backgrounds who are part of the same friendship groups. The ethnographically styled fieldwork (including visual ethnography) was carried out in a Primary school in North London. The data includes observations in the playground, the classrooms, in the children's homes and out and about in the neighbourhood. Interviews were conducted with children, teachers and parents and media activities and video productions formed an important part of the data collection and analysis. This is, therefore, an in depth study of particular children in a particular time aimed at gaining a detailed understanding of the workings of television in their lives. The data and analysis show that television acted as an important shared space where little else beyond school was shared and where continuity of place and relationships was fragmented or fragile. Television knowledge served as a symbolic resource that these children learned to negotiate, helping them to make sense of the world and their place in it. However, at the same time TV talk was also a place in which these children learned what was not acceptable with their peers and the wider society. They often censored the most important aspects of their home lives from everyday social interactions outside the home. Thus, while acting to facilitate inclusion it was also a powerful force for conformity and for excluding what was different. The families in my study used satellite and cable television to maintain contact with their countries of origin and to build new relationships within the diasporic community internationally. The children, therefore, had to negotiate not only the formation of new identities but, in a way not envisaged before global media, simultaneous multiple affiliations and identities. News media also had a particular importance for the refugee and migrant families in my study. For those children who had experienced conflict it triggered strong feelings of insecurity. Talking with their peers allowed them to relate their experiences to those of others and for them to understand that they were not alone. While children living with two or more cultures are often seen as disadvantaged this study presents a different picture. In contemporary society where economics, communication and everyday life require the ability to move across cultural bound.aries it raises the question as to how we are supporting children in maintaining and developing intercultural communication and skills that will equip them to participate fully in society. This has implications for research, curriculum and the training of teachers and school support staff.