We need to equip them with different skills but children’s awareness of what matters in life is remarkable. As part of the marking of this year’s Tolerance Day, Learn2Think has just awarded prizes in its Young Journalist Award competition, in partnership with the Guardian Foundation and The Week Junior. The calibre of entries was extraordinary, especially coming from children so young.
There were of course entries on the environment, bullying, recycling, electric cars and fast fashion, but there were also entries on the relative notion of poverty, the importance of dialogue and protest in achieving piece, blending society to address the challenge of dementia. One child’s piece on sexism spoke as clearly as national newspaper leaders on its insidious nature.
Young children have awareness and passion and their voices need to be developed. Author Ellen Galinsky explains the importance of teaching children critical thinking skills: 'A child’s natural curiosity helps lay the foundation for critical thinking. Critical thinking requires us to take in information, analyse it and make judgements about it, and that type of active engagement requires imagination and inquisitiveness.’ These come naturally to children and should be encouraged.
Critical thinking clearly fosters resilience, empathy, flexibility of thinking and self confidence. Such skills offer the best immunisation against the main demons of social media: misinformation, bullying and indoctrination. There has certainly been much debate this year about media literacy and how to help children understand what they face, to support them in learning how to assess, analyse, evaluate and create information. Our experience with the competition and some of the conversations that arose from the entries led us to ask some questions however.
In order to understand media literacy, we need to understand more about children’s complex relationship with media. Today’s primary school children are growing up with a deluge of information that is difficult for the pre-internet generation to even comprehend.
That being the case, we are looking to run some focus groups with children between 7 and 13 years old, the time when the social and emotional development of children is at its stronger. These will explore media consumption and understanding, as well as more complex issues relatingto media exposure, such as uses and gratifications offered by new media, information overload, the main concerns related to internet safety and social media exposure (bullying, hate speech, peer pressure, stigma etc.)
Only by understanding this web of complex issues can we really hope to define the issue that we need to address. For any reader prepared to allow the Foundation to run a focus group at your school, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get the conversation started.
If you missed out on the free lesson plans, books and other materials on religious tolerance and diversity, as well as understanding the nature of belief and knowledge with the Truth Detectives, you can still sign up at www.toleranceday.org and use them any time of year.