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For Cambodian youths, TV still king: new study

Children watch television in Phnom Penh’s White Building in earlier this year.
Children watch television in Phnom Penh’s White Building in earlier this year. Pha Lina

For Cambodian youths, TV still king: new study

Bucking the widespread perception that the youth of today only have eyes for Facebook, a new study has found that TV is still king for adolescent Cambodians.

The study, commissioned by child rights group UNICEF and carried out by Indochina Research, was released over the weekend and shows two-thirds of young people aged 10 to 19 watch television daily.

The report also found that 8 percent of more than 800 children surveyed were “media dark”, that is, they had not consumed any television, radio or internet media in the past month. Of those who were “media dark”, the majority – six out of 10 – were girls, and most were from rural areas in Ratanakkiri, Kratie and Preah Sihanouk, though the results did not examine the reason for the gender gap.

Nicole Dulieu, Indochina Research project manager and one of the report’s authors, said phone ownership was growing among young people – four in 10 owned a mobile phone, and two in 10 said they had a smart phone. “If you have less access to information, whatever you consume will be more important to you,” she said.

The lack of information for children in “at-risk groups” – including youth living in poverty, trafficked children, or those with HIV or drug addiction – means they “don’t always have the ability to differentiate between what is real and what is not when consuming information; they don’t necessarily know how to verify it”, she added.

She added that parents still had a major say in the lives of adolescents and, worryingly, 21 percent said they wouldn’t speak to anyone if they had issues with their family or friends. UNICEF spokesperson Iman Morooka said the qualitative interviews in the report with vulnerable youth highlighted their key concerns.

“Many of them indicated that they feel stigmatised and isolated, with education attainment being below the expected level . . . Fear for their safety and loss of trust are some of the concerns that were raised by adolescents who have experienced trafficking and those exposed to drug use,” she said.

The report also found many young people were highly concerned about traffic accidents and crime – “hot news” topics often favoured by news outlets.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodian Institute for Media Studies, said in his experience, youth watched TV for entertainment and went to social media for information.

He added that the media should think twice before “over reporting” violent crime or displaying gory graphics in prime time or on social media to impressionable audiences.

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