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Citizen children

23 July 2009

a remote controlChildren and young people see themselves as citizens and want to play a more active role in the public sphere according to a collaborative research project involving the University.

The School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, along with three other universities and the BBC, carried out a year-long project exploring children’s relationship with the BBC’s news provision both on television and the web. A particular focus was given to the BBC’s flagship news programme Newsround.

The majority of children taking part in the research (98.3 percent) said they found news to be interesting, with television being their main source of news. More than 95 percent of children said they regularly watched Newsround with the broadcast proving more popular than the programme’s website.

The team also found that children were keenly interested in the issues around them, enjoying professional news agendas such as current affairs as well as news about topics they though relevant to themselves including video game reviews and information about truancy.

One of the key findings was that children wanted to be more active in society and thought that adult news frequently ignored their voices and perspectives. In this respect the researchers found that Newsround provided children and young people with an outlet that prioritised their voices, and made their ideas feel important.

Children over the age of 12 however, felt that they had outgrown Newsround but expressed the idea that they weren’t quite ready for adult news.

Dr Cynthia Carter of the School said: "A significant number of older children taking part in our research strongly supported the development of a dedicated news provision for the young teenager audience. In addition, we found that children want more attention to be paid to local issues in all four nations which comprise the UK. Our research suggests that Newsround should ensure that its news provision supports and also challenges young people in their development as young citizens. Producers should not avoid addressing a wide range of political, social, economic and personal issues, as they can always be addressed in ways that are relevant and appropriate to the child audience."

More than 200 children and young people aged between 8 and 15 from the four nations of the UK took part in the research. Questionnaires, classroom based activities and video diaries aimed to find out what issues most concerned them with relation to the provision of news for children.

BBC Controller, Research &Development, Matthew Postgate said: "This project allowed us to gain valuable insight into audience attitudes and behaviours that we simply could not have gained any other way. I’m encouraged that much of it has already been put into practice and that we’ve been able to put something back into the wider academic community."

The research was funded by the AHRC/BBC Knowledge Exchange Programme. Cardiff’s partners were the universities of Ulster, Bournemouth and Nottingham.

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