Teaching young children social skills is seen as important to their future wellbeing. A Canadian study has found that moral lessons in stories have the biggest impact on pre-schoolers when the characters are human, rather than animals. This research was carried out by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto, with 96 children aged four to six. Children were randomly assigned to read one of three books: a prosocial book with a human main character, the same prosocial book with an anthropomorphic animal character that speaks and wears clothes, and a control book about seeds. Sharing with others was the focus of the stories and children were assessed before and after the reading based on how well they were able to share 10 stickers with another child. The children who either listened to, or read, the book with a human character shared more after reading their book, unlike the children in the group with the animal character who shared less. The study concluded that many children do not recognise anthropomorphic animal characters as comparable to themselves and, therefore, such stories are less likely to influence their behaviour. Additionally, the more human characteristics that were placed onto non-human characters, the more the child shared after reading the book. Read more here.
Children often find it difficult to speak about their most difficult experiences, and child therapists frequently employ play and art techniques to allow children to share and make sense of traumatic events. Antennas is a cartoon alien, created by psychologist Julia Borbolla, to encourage children in Mexico to share traumatic experiences. The cartoon is voiced by trained psychologists but the voices are distorted to sound childlike. Antennas acts as though it does not know anything about life on earth in order to ask questions about children’s lives. Another character, Dulas, talks to children in hospital, while Bosty is used to gather evidence that can be used in court cases, and has even been used in a murder trial. Despite some public services in Mexico now using Antennas and other characters, there is currently no research that measures the effectiveness of these cartoons. Some experts have raised concerns over the use of such characters, questioning whether children will tell the truth to a fictional character or consider it fantasy. Julia Borbolla opposes these claims, based on her 35 years of experience. She suggests that psychologists use techniques to establish if children are telling the truth and that children do not lie about their feelings. She would like to see these characters used all over the world and claims that the cartoons quickly establish a rapport with the children, which helps to make them feel comfortable and free. See more here.
FK&Y’s Anna Livingstone discusses the challenge posed by ‘dying’ languages, witnessed on her recent travels in South America
Data from the UN in 2009 showed that there are 270 million people in 90 countries who identify as indigenous, making up 5% of the global population and 15% of the world’s poor. While travelling in South America for the last 5 months, I came across many diverse cultures and the indigenous languages that accompanied them. While this was a wonderful experience, I noticed that public services and systems within the continent appeared to operate primarily in Spanish. However, many of the people conversationally speak different languages. I wondered if this caused any problems politically or structurally within the continent. The centre of the old Inca Empire, in modern day Peru and Bolivia, is where one indigenous language, Quechua, seemed to be commonly spoken as a first, and sometimes sole, language. In this blog post, I will explore indigenous languages in education and the fate of Quechua.
The politics of language in Latin America has been dominated by a push towards colonial assimilation in the twentieth century. It is only in recent years that there has been a policy shift that focuses on recognising indigenous and linguistic diversity. While linguistic rights are now being recognised officially on the continent, implementation has been limited with one issue being underlying racism towards indigenous peoples. (more…)
There is often concern that children’s ability to read is declining as their use of tablets and other digital devices increases.
Latest research from Neilson shows that while the children’s book market was up +2% in 2016, the downward trend of parents reading to their children less and less continues. In 2016 there was a noticeable drop in parents reading to pre-schoolers, and a drop in children from age 5 reading to themselves.
Family Kids & Youth and Egmont Publishing have worked together to find out whether an intervention designed to encourage children to read with their parents would result in a greater love of reading. Over 12 months a challenge was given to 15 diverse families, who would not normally read together, to find out whether they would be ‘open’ to this, and what effect this had on children. (more…)
Th1rteen R3asons Why is a young adult novel written by Jay Asher (2007) about a teenage girl who commits suicide. The novel was adapted into a 13-episode Netflix original series titled 13 Reasons Why and has received wide-ranging criticism.
The show follows 17 year old Clay Jenson (Dylan Minnette) as he listens to seven double sided cassette tapes recorded by 17 year old Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) before she took her life. The tapes detail the 13 reasons that led to Hannah Baker’s depression and subsequent suicide. The ‘nouveau murder mystery’ highlights the impact of bullying in schools, young people’s mental health, resilience and the effect that an accumulation of seemingly trivial incidences combined with traumatic events can have on a young person. Some episodes of 13 Reasons Why begin with disclaimers about the graphic nature of the content.
The Netflix series, which is currently the platform’s most popular show, has been praised for revealing an ‘un-sensationalised portrait’ of American high school life as well as shining a light on the ‘rough but sadly familiar’ events Hannah Baker suffered, which include loneliness, cyberbullying, sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape. However, the show has also been criticised for ‘glamourizing suicide’ with some mental health organisations warning that the series could have a damaging effect on vulnerable viewers. Notably, a mental health group in Australia has reported a steady increase in calls and emails to suicide helplines. Kristen Douglas, national manager at Australian mental health charity Headspace commented: “There is a responsibility for broadcasters to know what they are showing and the impact that certain content can have on an audience – and on a young audience in particular” adding that “national and international research clearly indicates the very real impact and risk to harmful suicide exposure leading to increased risk and possible suicide contagion”. Despite Australia’s strict guidelines around suicide depiction, Douglas believes that part of the issue lies behind the access young people have to international content, which makes it more difficult to exercise consistent warnings. (more…)
An invisible flying dolphin who lives on a star. A tiny, completely white figure, who lives in the light of lamps. An invisible 160-year-old business man. These are all examples of children’s imaginary friends.
Children’s use of fantasy is an important developmental stage, and they are often encouraged to engage with it in a variety of ways. Children’s story books, TV shows, films, and imaginative play can all draw on fantasy, giving children a high level of exposure to worlds of make-believe. Yet imaginary friends can sometimes cause parents to worry, as can the effects of high exposure to characters within video content, viewed sometimes as a limiting factor on the development of a child’s own imagination and creativity. Extensive research led by Dr Marjorie Taylor, Developmental Psychologist at the University of Oregon, helps to shed light on the phenomenon of imaginary companions (ICs) and finds that creative imagination in children is still strong. (more…)
Virtual reality has been at the forefront of technological development for several years but is still struggling to find its niche. Many companies have developed the use of this technology for immersive games and entertainment, while new applications are being launched daily. The use of virtual reality tools when carrying out market research with children cannot be far off.
Newcastle University, in collaboration with Third Eye Technologies, has shown that virtual reality can be used as a therapeutic technique for children with autism. This was achieved using Third Eye Technologies’ ‘Blue Room’. This room allows for a fully immersive audio visual experience without the need for a headset, which autistic children can find distressing. Psychologists lead the children through simulations of real life scenarios that may have caused anxiety in the past while teaching them relaxation techniques and coping strategies. The treatment reported improvements in eight out of nine children, allowing them to move past these fears.
Such rooms are not the norm for Virtual Reality however. Most commonly, it is formatted to exist within a headset which is worn by the user. Although this has been developed further by companies such as Tick Tock Unlock, into a multi-sensory ‘Hyper Reality Experience’, users can have access to the platform through a variety of headsets made from as simple a material as cardboard. Such devices were distributed to UK classrooms in 2016 by Google, enabling teachers to take their students on ‘virtual reality field trips’. (more…)
Children make the best participants in research
Children’s research can seem daunting and fraught with difficulty to clients, but actually children make the best respondents. They are honest, straightforward and eager to be asked their opinion. Kids in research can also however be too ready to please if in the hands of an inexperienced researcher; they might say what they think is the right answer, rather than express their opinion. They can also push the boundaries a little, if they think the researcher is uncomfortable.
So, how do you research children? Well, there are 3 simple, but important, considerations before you begin. (more…)
Many parents need support to be the best parents and ensure their children have the best outcome, is the overall conclusion of our report, released today by the Social Mobility Commission.
The report analyses evidence from parenting programmes in the UK and around the world and examines how public policy can support parents, particularly in the early years. It argues parenting programmes and interventions should be available to all parents regardless of background. Such programmes can help to develop parental management skills and confidence, build healthy family relationships and enhance children’s social, behavioural and cognitive development and well-being, the report says. FK&Y’s Dr Barbie Clarke said, ‘We argue that every parent needs help at this challenging time of huge change. It’s back-up for all parents and early family support avoids creating problems for the future. Programmes need to be universal to reduce stigma and encourage parents to take part.’ (more…)
The London School of Economics along with University College London and Surrey University conducted a research study which revealed that the children’s learning and development was not significantly impacted upon by nursery teachers’ qualifications. The researchers evaluated data from the National Pupil Database and found that children’s learning only increased by a third of a point with graduate teachers. There was also no significant effect on children’s outcomes if they attended a nursery rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. Dr Jo Blanden, lead researcher of the study, stated that government’s efforts to improve teacher qualifications in order to improve children’s learning may not be particularly useful. Chief Executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance emphasized that voluntary nursery settings are not of a ‘lower quality’ only because they are less likely to employ graduate staff. This research contrasts with the findings of a study conducted by Save the Children in 2016 which claimed that nursery teachers must be qualified to improve children’s outcomes.