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Research suggests girls’ confidence declines by age six

A collaborative research study from Princeton University, New York University and the University of Illinois has presented findings which suggest that girls begin to lose confidence in their own abilities by the time they reach six years of age. The study which included 400 children found that as gender differences develop, confidence and faith in one’s own gender also diminishes. The study included an experiment whereby children were read a story about a very intelligent protagonist, they then had to choose from images of two men and two women, to identify who they thought the protagonist was. At the age of five, children were more inclined to pick their own gender but by the age of six, girls were more likely to pick the opposite sex, while boys continued to pick the male images at least 75% of the time. One of the researchers, Professor Cimpian, states that society’s stereotypes manifest themselves quite early in children’s lives and this can have an impact on life choices and trajectories.

Play and childhood development

Cambridge University, along the Lego Foundation of Denmark, is aiming to recruit a Lego Professor of Play to advance research on play and its role in childhood development. The professor will join the Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development and Learning (PEDAL), a new research centre at Cambridge University. Bo Stjerne Thomsen, global head of research for the Lego Foundation, asserts that the hope is for the UK government to promote more playful learning in schools in order to foster creativity, problem-solving skills and innovation in individuals. Cambridge University states that the position for the Lego Professor will be filled by a candidate who is a specialist in education and can innovate creative methods of conducting research across a variety of disciplines linked to children’s development. Read more here.

‘The internet is not designed for children’ says UK Children’s Commissioner

The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, presented a report which stated that the Internet is ‘not designed for children’ as they are unaware of the risks and do not know how to keep themselves safe. A study investigating whether teenagers understood Instagram’s terms and conditions revealed that none of the adolescents using Instagram clearly understood the terms. The terms and conditions were then simplified and some of the teenagers deleted the Instagram app from their phones while others realised the risks of sharing personal data online. Instagram’s head of policy stated that they ensure that users are able to understand information governing their policies and procedures. A spokesman from the government said that the UK was ahead of other countries in respect to internet safety but admitted that the risks presented in the report need to be considered as there is a lot about the internet that remains unknown. Read more here.

The Prince‘s Trust survey identifies youth anxieties

A survey of 2,215 16 to 25 year olds in the UK, carried out by YouGov for the Prince’s Trust Macquarie Youth Index, has found that political upheaval, job worries and low self-confidence have left young people anxious and daunted. 58% claimed that political events had made them fear for their futures, whilst 41% considered themselves more anxious than last year. Half of the young people asked perceived getting a job to be harder than a year ago, and 42% considered traditional goals like home ownership or a steady job to be unrealistic. Results showed the lowest levels of confidence and happiness seen among this age range in 8 years since the research began. The Prince’s Trust recently launched a strategy to embed mental health support into its employability and personal development programmes which will address these issues.

Gendered toys influence career choice

Research from the Institution for Engineering and Technology (IET) reveals that science themed toys with a focus on engineering, maths and technology are mostly targeted at boys while toys targeted at girls are mostly pink in colour. An analysis of search engines and online toy retailers found that a search for ‘girls’ toys’ led to results of which 89% were pink. A similar search for ‘boys’ toys’ led to more science and engineering related toys. According to the latest data, only 9% of women are part of the engineering work force in the UK. The IET claims that this is down to gender stereotyping which begins in early childhood and heavily influences career choices in adulthood. Mamta Singhal, a toy engineer, says she grew up playing with both girls’ and boys’ toys which included dolls as well as cars and building blocks. According to her the marketing of toys can be a good place to begin altering perceptions of gender in order to encourage girls from a young age to become interested in subjects like physics, maths and engineering. A spokesman from Let Toys be Toys, which campaigns against categorizing toys by gender, has said that many toy manufacturers had made great progress in reducing gender-based labels, and there has been an overall 70% drop in online search options based on gender since 2012.

Codebreaker school for gifted teenagers

A new sixth form college in Bletchley Park is to be opened to equip teenagers with the skills required to become codebreakers. The school aims to fill the gap currently not accounted for in Britain’s national security workforce. The boarding school, aptly called ‘The College of National Security’, will be open free of charge to nearly 500 of the most talented applicants and will teach skills including cyber skills, logical thinking and problem solving along with other subjects such as physics, maths and computer science. Alastair MacWillson, chair of Qufaro, the not-for-profit consortium of cybersecurity experts which is responsible for the initiative, considers a cyber threat to be the biggest national security challenge for Britain in the 21st century and estimates that currently there are only 700,000 cybersecurity experts in Europe. The ‘Internet Security Threat Report’ presented findings in 2016 which revealed that nearly 75% of online websites have serious issues around security and privacy. MacWillson is aiming to get state funding for the school from the Department for Education, but if that fails, the school will still be free of charge and will rely on funding from corporate sponsors instead. Read more here.

Parenting intervention in the form of an app

Oxford University’s study finds an app designed to help parents improve their parenting skills is showing signs of success. The study recruited 144 families with children aged between two and six from disadvantaged communities in Bournemouth, and found that using the app resulted in an improvement in children’s school readiness. The app offers a variety of practical tips and guidance in bringing up children as well as activities and games that parents and children can do together. After eighteen weeks of using the app, parents reported that their children showed more autonomy in decision-making, displayed perseverance, especially in conducting hard tasks, and there was a general improvement in children’s overall behaviour. The study also found that at £35 per child, the intervention was cost-effective and the improvements were reported to be ‘statistically significant’. The study was, in part, funded by the Sutton Trust, whose founder, Sir Peter Lampl, stated that such interventions can help to increase social mobility and narrow the gap between the rich and poor.

Post Brexit vote, a primary school in the UK aims to tackle racism

A charity, Show Racism the Red Card, led an anti-racism day at Sacred Heart primary school in Hartlepool with 5-6 year olds. Justine King, an education worker with the charity, explained that Hartlepool has one of the lowest proportions of ethnic minorities in the UK. Following the Brexit vote, the attitudes of people in the region have shifted, leading to an increase in the expression of racist views. Hartlepool is just an example and since the referendum, there has been a national increase in hate crimes. According to figures from the Department for Education, changes in the UK’s ethnic make-up are having a wide-ranging impact on education. In a millennium cohort study with 2,000 ethnic minority participants, it was found that children who experienced racism performed less well than their peers in non-verbal reasoning and spatial tests.

US research shows that the detrimental effects of bullying can last into early adulthood

Research from the USA has found that the impact of experiencing bullying as a child can have effects reaching into early adulthood. The study of 480 undergraduate students measured exposure to various traumatic experiences, such as bullying, cyberbullying, robbery, sexual assault and violence from birth to 17. Experiencing bullying as a child was the strongest predictor in the study of students reporting symptoms of PTSD. Females who had experienced bullying reported significantly higher levels of depression, anxiety and PTSD than males. There was found to be a correlation between experiencing inter-personal trauma as a child or young adult and the risk of victimisation as an adult. Educational psychologist Dorothy Espelage, who led the study at the University of Illinois, said “Bullying victimization significantly predicted students’ current levels of depression and anxiety — over and above other childhood victimization experiences.”

Teenagers burn less calories while resting

A recent study published in the International Journal of Diabetes has revealed that teenagers burn 25% less energy when they are resting compared to the energy burnt at age 10 while resting. Researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School found that the number of calories burnt by teenagers at resting point falls dramatically during puberty. At around age 16, calories burnt at rest began to rise again. During puberty, researchers observed a noticeable reduction in exercise among teenagers, particularly girls, which they believed could add to weight gain. They consider their findings to be an explanation of why teenagers gain weight during puberty and believe that the results of the study could help inform the creation of targeted strategies. Vice-president of the Faculty of Public Health, Professor Simon Capewell, commented on young people’s use of personal electronic devices, stating that the bombardment of food marketing to adolescents does not help the situation.

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