Are tablets good for children?

dad-with-daughter-tablet

The Guardians of Ancora blog recently highlighted a BBC article

There’s no question that tablet computers have swept into children’s lives in the past couple of years. But is this good, bad or neutral?

‘Parents,’ says the BBC iWonder website, ‘sometimes worry that time spent playing on screen devices may be stunting important development in areas such as social and communication skills. However, as devices and technology have evolved to be more intuitive and creative, they have opened up a world of possibilities for children who previously may have been frustrated by the constraints of their abilities and their environment.’

To help you think through this question for yourself, Professor Lydia Plowman and teaching fellow Juliet Hancock, from the University of Edinburgh, have put together a helpful guide.

UNICEF creates virtual child from photos of children in conflict

UNICEF creates virtual child from photos of children in conflict

There are currently 250 million children around the world living in countries affected by conflict, and half of the 19.5 million refugees globally are children. A new awareness campaign hopes to shine a light on them all — by focusing on one.

UNICEF Sweden has created “Sofia,” a 3D-animated child using 500 photos of real children from emergency areas. The images were provided by Getty Images, the campaign’s visual partner, and animators from the films Planet of the Apes and Avatar worked with creative agency Edelman Deportivo to bring her to life.

Per Westberg, deputy executive director of UNICEF Sweden, said in a statement.

“We have created Sofia to give a face to all the children that aren’t visible to us.  Sofia is a symbol for all the orphan children, all the children that have been forced to leave their homes due to conflicts, who have stopped growing because of lack of nutrition and who dream of going to school.”

UNICEF decided to call the child Sofia because it was reported as the “most popular” name across the world last year.

The animation released this week marks the first of three videos in the organization’s #FörSofia spring campaign, according to Swedish news outlet Resumé.

“Meet Sofia,” the video opens. “She is the children that no one sees, in the disasters no one talks about. This is her story.”

While the video runs the risk of perpetuating an idea that there is a single refugee experience, the most compelling part is when Sofia says, “I’m not real. I’m the face of all the children suffering from emergencies no one talks about.”

Then, images of refugee children and those in conflict areas populate the screen.

3D_work_in_progress

In addition to awareness, the campaign aims to inspire people to become donors to UNICEF, as “world parents.”

Westberg said:

“Sofia is representing all the children you are helping when you are a world parent, UNICEF supports the children, through long-term development projects and through acute support when disasters occur. We are distributing our efforts according to needs, and the most exposed children will get help first.”

Children give their opinion on Adele

adele_kids

Adele’s 25 has been breaking records ever since it was released in November, but what do children think about the British songstress?

Luckily the YouTube channel Fine Brothers have the answers.  They gathered a group of children and played them “Hello” and 21 favourite “Rolling in the Deep.”

[youtube id=”0RLU7hfgP8w” width=”580″ height=”337″]

The seven minute video is full of amusing impressions and comments, with some saying she is perfect while others say they prefer hip hop. One just asks: “What does this all represent?”

Funny things children say at Christmas

The Nativity

The funny things children say at Christmas according to the Daily Mail

What gifts did the three wise men bring?

  • Rebecca, 5, Merchant Taylors: “They brought Jesus gold and myrrh but I would have brought him a nice warm blanket.”
  • William, 7, Merchant Taylors: “I don’t know what presents the wise men brought Jesus but a Lego set would have been better.”
  • Ellie, 5, Broomhill Infants: “The three wise men brought Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh – no real presents. I feel sorry for him.”
  • Ellie, 6, Merchant Taylors: “When he was born three kings brought him gold, coins and a sheep.”

Who was the angel Gabriel?

  • Erin, 6, Broomhill Infants: “The Angel Gabriel is a big white fairy. He helped Mary and Joseph look after the baby – kind of like a doctor.”
  • Jay, 5, Broomhill Infants: “There was also an angel called Gabriel, whose favourite thing was to fly around all day.”
  • Molly, 6, Broomhill Infants: “Angel Gabriel was also there and he has yellow wings and a white costume.”
  • Katherine, 9, from St James’ Church of England Primary School, Weybridge, Surrey: “Gabriel was this herald angel. He was a boy but he’s played by a girl in Christmas plays.”

Why do we celebrate Christmas?

  • Ellyshia, 9, St James’ Primary: “I am not really a Christian. I believe in unicorns and pixies.”
  • Ben, 7, Broad Oak: “We celebrate Christmas because Santa comes and gives us lots and lots of presents.”

Where was Jesus born?

  • Charlie, 4, Broomhill Infants: “He was born in a stable a long way away from here in another country. Bethlehem – it’s in England.”
  • Erin, 6, Broomhill Infants: “Jesus was born in the stable – it had lots of hairs.”

Ofcom’s Children’s Media Use and Attitudes Report 2015

Ofcom’s Children’s Media Use and Attitudes Report 2015

The 10th Ofcom report on ‘Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report‘ has just been published.

This report examines children’s media literacy. It provides detailed evidence on media use, attitudes and understanding among children and young people aged 5-15, as well as detailed information about the media access and use of young children aged 3-4.

The report also includes findings relating to parents’ views about their children’s media use, and the ways that parents seek – or decide not – to monitor or limit use of different types of media.

Summary of key themes

This year’s report shows that:

  • In 2005 levels of take-up of key media among children were higher than we might recollect, and not dissimilar to those of today. However, the experience of using these devices has been transformed, leading to a much richer and more expansive online experience than was the case in 2005.
  • Over the last few years, tablets are increasingly being used as a default entertainment screen, particularly among younger children. This is set alongside a small but important decrease in the numbers watching TV via a TV set.
  • The content children are consuming is increasingly curated by digital intermediaries, including providers like YouTube and Google. As well as attractive sources of content, rivalling traditional broadcasters, they are also seen by some children as legitimating brands, helping to vouchsafe the veracity or trustworthiness of content accessed through their sites.
  • The move towards smaller screens makes supervision more difficult for parents, and the proliferation of devices increases the need for parents to keep up to date with technology. For example, while over half of parents use any of the technical tools we ask about to manage their children’s online access and use, and around a quarter use ISP network-level filters, less than one in five parents whose child uses a smartphone or tablet use any of the tools for restricting app installation or use that we asked about.
  • The wider range of sources of content, set alongside the increased exposure to advertising, the use of services like social networking and the relatively low levels of critical understanding raises challenges for how children keep their personal information safe, understand the implications of sharing personal information and content and navigate the increasingly complex online environment in a way which allows them to reap the benefits and minimise the risks.

Pages 4-12 contain the Executive Summary with key themes and findings – if you don’t have long, do take the time to read these few pages.  Section 3 also contains some fascinating charts on the difference in usage by children between 2005 and 2015.

 

Good Childhood Report 2015

thegoodchildhoodreport-2015-frontcover

The Children’s Society has produced their fourth Good Childhood Report, exploring how children feel about their lives, based on 10 years of well-being research in partnership with the University of York.

 

The report concludes that far too many children in England are experiencing low levels of well-being and considers what more can be done to improve the lives of children when it comes to their well-being, how to respond to those most in need and the importance of listening to children’s voices and understanding their personal experiences.

 

The report looks at the latest national statistics, key findings from the research programme, new findings from an international perspective and children’s well-being in the UK in comparison to that of children in other countries.

 

Key Findings;

  • 5-10% of children in the UK have low levels of well-being
  • Low well-being is linked to a range of negative outcomes for children including mental and physical health problems.
  • More than half of children not living with family, e.g. ‘Looked After Children’, and children who have difficulties with learning had lower levels of life satisfaction compared to fewer than one in ten of those living with family.
  • As children approach adolescence there are clear declines in levels of well-being, 2.4% of children aged 10 had low levels of life satisfaction compared to 8.2% of children aged 16.
  • From an international perspective, children in England ranked 14th out of 15th for satisfaction with life as a whole.

 

 

Funny things children say at Christmas

The Nativity

The funny things children say at Christmas according to the Daily Mail

What gifts did the three wise men bring?

  • Rebecca, 5, Merchant Taylors: “They brought Jesus gold and myrrh but I would have brought him a nice warm blanket.”
  • William, 7, Merchant Taylors: “I don’t know what presents the wise men brought Jesus but a Lego set would have been better.”
  • Ellie, 5, Broomhill Infants: “The three wise men brought Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh – no real presents. I feel sorry for him.”
  • Ellie, 6, Merchant Taylors: “When he was born three kings brought him gold, coins and a sheep.”

Who was the angel Gabriel?

  • Erin, 6, Broomhill Infants: “The Angel Gabriel is a big white fairy. He helped Mary and Joseph look after the baby – kind of like a doctor.”
  • Jay, 5, Broomhill Infants: “There was also an angel called Gabriel, whose favourite thing was to fly around all day.”
  • Molly, 6, Broomhill Infants: “Angel Gabriel was also there and he has yellow wings and a white costume.”
  • Katherine, 9, from St James’ Church of England Primary School, Weybridge, Surrey: “Gabriel was this herald angel. He was a boy but he’s played by a girl in Christmas plays.”

Why do we celebrate Christmas?

  • Ellyshia, 9, St James’ Primary: “I am not really a Christian. I believe in unicorns and pixies.”
  • Ben, 7, Broad Oak: “We celebrate Christmas because Santa comes and gives us lots and lots of presents.”

Where was Jesus born?

  • Charlie, 4, Broomhill Infants: “He was born in a stable a long way away from here in another country. Bethlehem – it’s in England.”
  • Erin, 6, Broomhill Infants: “Jesus was born in the stable – it had lots of hairs.”

A Dad for Christmas

Christmas presents

When it comes to Christmas, it might be safe to assume children will ask Santa for an extensive list of toys, games and treats.  But a survey highlighted in The Telegraph of their typical lists for Father Christmas has shown many have more serious concerns, requesting “a dad” instead.

A study of 2,000 British parents found most children will put a new baby brother or sister at the top of their Christmas list, closely followed by a request for a real-life reindeer.

A “pet horse” was the third most popular choice, with a “car” making a bizarre entry at number four.  But despite their material requests, the tenth most popular Christmas wish on the list was a “Dad”.

The survey, of consumers at Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City, found children aged three to 12 years also wanted a dog, chocolate and a stick of rock.  Traditional hopes for a white Christmas were represented by a wish for “snow” in ninth place, with sensible youngsters also requesting a “house”.

Of the top 50 festive requests, 17 related to pets and animals, with some imaginative children hoping for a donkey, chicken and elephant.

iPhones and iPads also appeared on the list, with some quirky children asking for the moon, a time machine, a pond cover and beetroot. One child asked for Eva Longoria and another wanted Harry Styles from One Direction.

A request for a “mum” reached number 23 on the list.

The importance of a child’s bedtime

child bedtime

Going to bed at the same time every night could give your child’s brain a boost, a recent study found:

Researchers at University College London found that when 3-year-olds have a regular bedtime they perform better on cognitive tests administered at age 7 than children whose bedtimes weren’t consistent. The findings represent a new twist on an expanding body of research showing that inadequate sleep in children and adolescents hurts academic performance and overall health.

The latest study considered other factors that can influence bedtime and cognitive development, such as kids skipping breakfast or having a television in their bedroom. After accounting for these, the study found that going to bed very early or very late didn’t affect cognitive performance, so long as the bedtime was consistent.

“The surprising thing was the later bedtimes weren’t significantly affecting children’s test scores once we took other factors into account,” said Amanda Sacker, director of the International Center for Lifecourse Studies in Society and Health at University College London and a co-author of the study. “I think the message for parents is…maybe a regular bedtime even slightly later is advisable.”

The researchers suggested that having inconsistent bedtimes may hurt a child’s cognitive development by disrupting circadian rhythms. It also might result in sleep deprivation and therefore affect brain plasticity—changes in the synapses and neural pathways—at critical ages of brain development.

The children were participants in the U.K.’s Millennium Cohort Study, a nationally representative longterm study of infants born between 2000 and 2002.  Mothers were asked about their children’s bedtimes at 3, 5 and 7 years of age. Nearly 20% of the 3-year-olds didn’t have a regular bedtime. That figure dropped to 9.1% at age 5 and 8.2% at age 7. Mothers were also asked about socioeconomic and demographic characteristics and family routines.

When the children were 7 years old, they received cognitive assessments in reading, math and spatial abilities. The poorest test scores were recorded by children who went to bed very early or very late, and by those who had inconsistent bedtimes, said Dr. Sacker. But once other factors in the home were taken into account only the inconsistent bedtime was associated with lower scores, she said.

A consistent pattern of sleep behavior mattered. “Those who had irregular bedtimes at all three ages had significantly poorer scores than those who had regular bedtimes,” Dr. Sacker said. This was especially true for girls who didn’t establish consistent bedtimes between 3 and 7 years old.

Aim Lower video

I was reflecting on how we share our hope for children’s and youth ministry with the wider church today and was reminded of the Aim Lower video:

[youtube id=”mGpKH7MU4Sk” width=”580″ height=”337″]

The Aim Lower viral video was produced by the Global Children’s Forum in order to help communicate and popularise some of the key conclusions of the 2004 Lausanne Occasional Paper 18 (The Evangelization of Children). It presents the challenge of prioritising children within church and mission activities as well as adopting a new stance of humility in partnering to see this happen. This is a great tool for advocacy and is available in multiple languages!

Digital Children: Q&A with Bishop Paul Butler

Q&A with Bishop Paul Butler at the Digital Children conference:

Why is it that most Vicars only receive 1 seminar on children’s ministry in 3 years of full-time training?  Wouldn’t disagree with you, keep arguing and don’t seem to get anywhere.  Heads of Theological colleges began to take it on board but changing the culture takes time.

In Australia people are licensed as a Children’s Minister or Youth Minister – everything rises and falls on leadership – why are we not empowering on this?  The last year or two of CYM has struggled to get its numbers in the Children’s Course and the number of churches that are employing a children’s specialist.  If All-Age becomes the sustainable model do the training colleges begin to slim down?

Churches seem to struggle to find the calibre of workers should we employ from abroad?  But the Border Agency would not welcome this.

Refreshing to have a Bishop who gets it – don’t take that for granted – for many a children’s worker issues of leadership are real.  How do we encourage leadership generally from sentiment and rhetoric to meaningful action?  Show me a budget and I will tell you what your focus, but let’s be honest in our accounting so that we include volunteer hours.  Honestly don’t know the answer which is one of the frustrations.  Chair the Joint Liaison Safeguarding Group between CofE and Methodists – one of the positives is that Bishops are now waking up to the seriousness of the situation and to the wider issue of where are headed with childhood.  One of the things might be to find different ways in – coming from another angle people are now willing to speak about The Good Childhood etc.  Alongside Safeguarding try Parenting and Grand-Parenting skills.

Youth worker seeking ordination thinks schools and community work has to stop – that you graduate from children’s and youth ministry to focus on the grown-up issues of weddings, funerals and more.  Part of that is about placing Ordinands with Vicars and Rectors who get it.  It is still depressing to hear that said especially given how we now say bring your business skills, or teacher skills or social work skills.  In some Dioceses the do a weekend to train Curates on Children’s and Youth ministry.

Parishes that are having the most significant success are those that are tackling the issues of poverty – for churches doing football etc., they were feeding children, building better homes and more.  We can ask for more children’s workers but it is about missiology and the child piece in that.  It is not rocket science to look at what works for the community, 8am service was to allow the workers to milk the cows, do the service and then go back to cook lunch whilst the Lord and Lady attend the 10.30am.

Half churches aren’t engaging in children’s and youth work – there is a sense of larger churches growing due to their churches – thereby leading no people to lead that work.  How do we solve this?  There are schemes to get a part-time worker; maybe it is okay for some churches to not have children’s work as some areas have a demographic where there are very few children and so should focus on the elderly etc., and partner with a local place for the few children; ecumenical partnerships will be increasingly important.

Sticky Faith talks about involvement in all areas of the church being key for faith development, but All-Age Worship is often the worse attended, committed to it as a principle but how do we shake that image.  The only way is to shake it up by having an all-age group to plan the all-age worship to think how the different ages etc. work as too often it is child worship not all-age.

We are still focussed on aspirations – children and young people who go to university – half don’t so how do we connect with them?  So much is connected to those who go off to university, and we have to go back to Rakes with the Sunday School movement and the Ragged Schools – what is the equivalent for us – Glee Club and where we can raise aspirations.

Greatest cricketer in Viv Richards asking a guy in his congregation who was a poor county cricketer to improve him.  How?  He watched and spotted and commented it and left it to Viv to make the changes.

Digital Children: Bishop Paul Butler

Bishop Paul Butler led the next session at the Digital Children conference:

Children in attendance at church has been in decline although in 2011 Baptist numbers were up and the CofE numbers were just about steady

Sales of Sunday School materials are in decline, wider materials such as Bible reading notes etc. are also in decline.

Half of all churches have little or no contact with children, and more than half have little or no contact with young people.

Schools

Our engagement with schools is stronger than it has been for a number of years, and the opportunity is there.  We all know it can vary from Head teacher to Head teacher, but the options are there, especially if we are creative.  Why is Open the Book so successful?  It says you don’t need to be young, it is dramatic, it is creative, people enjoy it, and it tells the Bible stories very faithfully.  Too many churches still think engagement with schools is taking assemblies even though they haven’t been called that for a long time – it is running gardening clubs, breakfast clubs, after-school clubs.

Messy Church

Lots of research but no one knows why it works.  It is the willingness to explore the questions as to what it looks like – what do the sacraments look like in Messy Church, how does it change from a monthly event to a lifestyle – trying things out some of which work and some of which don’t.  Whilst in Walthamstow, was told by a Superintendent from the police the problem is that we have to know it works before we will try it.  Messy Church will continue to grow and variants will develop, e.g. Godly Play in prisons and Alzheimer’s work.

Toddler and Carer Groups

They continue to flourish at extraordinary rates – very quickly parents are asking for wisdom on how to parent and bringing children up spiritually.

Church Clubs

Still a huge role for places where children can enjoy, run around, be free to explore.  But we need to explore BGT and XFactor which is dance, drama and comedy – why aren’t we doing more Glee Clubs etc.

Sport culture

150 years of football which local churches started.  Southall is a town of 7,000 inhabitants, on Sunday morning there are 500 young people in the local football club.  Why are churches not freeing adults to go and be at Southall Town FC – don’t set up your own clubs.

Mentoring

Single parent families seeing so many young people growing up with no male role model, where does the church fit in with mentoring.

Residentials

We need to grow these further, interesting conversations from schools visits with senior staff about how they matter to the life of schools and how funding limits could cause problems.  We need to help churches grow their residentials, also including families.

Church Worship

Churches will move to all-age as the norm, what Mary Hawes does in Teddington with 25 minute services is going to be important.  Sustaining Sunday groups as they are in the current format is near impossible.  We may even see the beginning of Sunday afternoon school again as seen in the development of the Messy Church timings.

Poverty

In 2011 Paul’s diocese was the fastest growing, one common feature is they engage with the local community for the sake of the community not for bringing people into the church.  We need to work alongside Sure Start, social workers, schools etc., as the poverty issue is going to be the one that will run as there is a growth in child poverty, even the government are admitting that 250k extra children will fall into child poverty due to Welfare Reforms.

Get the Story Out

We have to get the story of Jesus out into people’s lives.  We have to use digital resources but look at low tech not high tech in the sense of YouTube, Facebook, Gavin Tyte’s beatboxing – not technically brilliant, mass market and massively possible.  We want some people who are brilliant at high tech but we have to get the message out.  This doesn’t just apply to children’s and youth work – it is the whole work of the church.

Which are the stories that will connect?  Paula Goodyer and Paul Butler are working on a book for 2014 taking a dozen bible stories with Bible scholar and passionate children’s worker reflecting together on the stories.  There is the whole of the Bible not just the favourite bits which are often mis-represented in the way they are told and dumbed down.

Don’t give up on evangelism with children – who knows what we might be sowing for the long-term.