A Child’s Eye View Is Valuable

Our youngest daughter Clementine speaking with Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell at the National Child and Youth Forum.
Our youngest daughter Clementine speaking with Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell at the National Child and Youth Forum.

I’ve got a confession to make: I love research.

Research doesn’t just add to your understanding, often it changes it. It can confound your expectations, challenge your assumptions, give you a whole new perspective on a topic.

The findings can be frustrating, like discovering the glacial progress on pay equality for women. They can be heartbreaking, like any snapshot of the rates of family violence in this country.

And, every so often, research findings can be a cause for genuine hope.

Last Friday, at the National Child and Youth Forum, University of Melbourne researchers and kids presented the results of the ‘Kid’s Rights Survey’ and the ‘Kids Contribute Survey’. It was so uplifting to hear, straight from these smart young ones, just what they think, in their own words.

Around 80 school students across Australia co-designed the survey questions, one of Australia’s great TV institutions, Behind the News, drove the publicity and over 33,000 Australians under 18 took part.

I recommend the results to every parent, indeed to anyone interested in the future of our society.

We live in a consumer-driven, materialistic and disposable age. And it’s common to read think-pieces about how this is due to ‘self-absorption’ on the part of younger Australians.

Anyone with kids knows that cliché is unfair. This survey proves it. The top three UN Convention rights most important to Australians under 17 were: to feel safe; to have healthy food, be cared for and have a home; and to be able to breathe clear air and drink free water.

The only change across the age groups was that older respondents also nominated the chance to ‘get an education’ as a right.

At the very first glance, there are two things I love about those results.

First, kids aren’t asking for the world: feeling safe, a roof over their head, water they can drink, air they can breathe and the opportunity to go to school. None of this should be beyond the capacity of our country to deliver, for every child.

Secondly, isn’t it fantastic that children view each of these as ‘rights’ to be protected? Because while the overwhelming majority of children felt like these rights were being met in their lives, it’s not like that old aphorism that ‘water means nothing to a fish’. I think the children who responded to this survey understand there are kids who don’t have a safe place to stay each night and that the health of the planet won’t just take care of itself.

The same positive, selfless message shines through in the Kids Contribute Survey.

Ninety-nine percent of the children and teenagers participating in this survey, were putting-in at home, helping-out at school and giving-back to their community.

From experience – as a child and parent – I’m sure some of those kids were doing the household chores in search of a bit of pocket money, others because, like at our place, feeding the dogs or stacking the dishwasher is part of the routine.

I wasn’t surprised to see so many kids say one of the things they do at home and in the community is ‘help adults use technology’. I know our family would have returned a 100 per cent result there.

Another finding that would bring a smile to every parent’s face is the number of kids who said that they contribute at school by trying to cheer up another student when they’re down, or speaking out against bullying when they see it.

And the reason behind these good deeds? The children and teenagers said they contributed because it made them feel: ‘happy’, ‘responsible’, ‘appreciated’ and ‘part of society’. How wonderful.

There’s plenty to be cynical about these days, no shortage of news that makes you throw up your hands and wonder what’s become of the world.

Next time that feeling comes over you, take a moment to see what the children are telling us, it’ll have you feeling optimistic about their future in a heartbeat.

Maybe The Who put it best, the kids are alright.


Further reading:

Kids Contribute: http://www.abc.net.au/btn/story/s4835653.htm
Kid’s Rights: http://www.abc.net.au/btn/story/s4892676.htm
The Jack Brockhoff Child Health & Wellbeing Program: https://goo.gl/EUi5o2
National Child and Youth Forum: https://goo.gl/wcW3K1


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