Dublin, Ireland: November 20th, 2015
‘I wish other children had the same as I have and feel as good as I feel. Other children have a right to feel as lucky and loved as me’ (Marina age 12, from Dublin)
The results of ChildFund’s annual global survey, Small Voices, Big Dreams, are in, and they make for fascinating reading. Nearly six thousand 10-12 years olds like Marina from Dublin (above) were asked to give us their thoughts on a range of probing questions designed to resonate with kids across diverse, socio-economic, religious and cultural backgrounds . This year we wanted to explore just how safe children really feel in familiar environments like home, and in less familiar environments, like the virtual world of social media. We also wanted to know what things they would do to protect themselves and other children from harm, if they had the opportunity to set the agenda. Marina had a very practical suggestion;
‘I would like to see a children’s president in every country, just to take care of children’s issues’ (Marina, 12, from Dublin)
The survey was conducted through a series of face-to-face interviews with Irish school children within the designated age group, as well as Irish children completing the 6 question survey on-line, with parental consent.
View the full report HERE
When Irish children were asked about the places they feel most at risk from harm, the results were sometimes startling. A significant 85% of Irish children felt that they were most at risk of being emotionally abused or mistreated online, through social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook.
Interestingly, children in Sweden worried about this issue to the same extent, also scoring eighty five percent in the survey. What is concerning is that these were the highest scores in all 44 countries interviewed, with the global average for children in developed countries being a notable, but far lower figure of 63%. The survey suggests therefore that this is a very real and pressing problem for Irish children, and an issue they worry about significantly.
Another worrying statistic illuminated in the report was that some 65% of Irish children felt most at risk of being physically or emotionally harmed in the school environment.
One fifth of Irish children interviewed felt at risk of harm at home. This figure compares favourably with the global average of 28% for developed countries. The results for developed countries corresponds starkly however with that of a developing countries such as Togo, where an alarming 94% of children said they feel most at risk in their own home, and in Ghana where a similar large figure of 91% was recorded.
48% of Irish children interpreted mistreatment by adults as punishment for something they had done wrong with 42% believing adults mistreated them ‘because they had the power’.
One thing adults could do to help them, according to 46% of Irish children, was simply to listen to them more.
‘Globally, another notable statistic to jump out of the survey was the fact more that than a quarter of the world’s children feel their parents don’t love them enough to keep them safe’.
One of the questions in the survey quizzed children about whom they felt was to blame on occasions where they were mistreated. 22% of Irish children felt it was because it was ‘their fault’, compared to Denmark where only 2% of children felt it was their fault. By contrast, in Ghana a significant 63% of children felt it was their fault when they were mistreated by adults.
Another probing, and indeed sobering area of enquiry in the 2015 survey looked at what children believed might be the primers for adults harmful or abusive behaviour toward them. Alarmingly, some 25% of Irish Children who answered this question felt they were mistreated because the adults were drunk or on drugs. While very significant in its own right, this figure was dwarfed by Australian children; 70% of whom put ‘drink/drugs’ down as the primary cause of adults abusive behaviour.
Globally however, only 15 of the 44 countries who participated in the survey ranked drink/drugs as a significant issue of for them.
The children surveyed were also asked what they would do to protect themselves and other kids if they were the leader of the country? (‘what would you do to make a child feel safer and free from mistreatment and harm’). The top answer globally was to punish the abuser / send them to prison (24% ).
Many Irish children demonstrated social awareness, stating that if they were the leader of the country they would give more to the poor, particularly the homeless and those without proper food and access to clean water.
Overall, Irish children appeared well aware of the inequality in the world between their lives and those in developing countries.
An overriding response to the question; what would you do to keep children safe? was to control bullying behaviour both in and outside school. This sentiment radiated throughout all interviews , children wanted more awareness campaigns and also someone they could talk to in confidence in school, as many did not want to ‘tell on the bully’ to the teacher or principle, feared more abuse or repercussions. Worryingly, only 15% of children globally would tell an adult/ teacher/ caregiver to keep a child of the opposite gender safe from harm. Many children stated they try and stand up for their friend at school and tell the bully to stop but fear telling the teacher!
The significance of ChildFunds Small Voices survey is that is gives voice to children from many diverse countries across the developed and developing world, allowing us to see these stark differences and ultimately, to provide better protection for children. That is why identifying their concerns is so crucially important.
ChildFund Ireland would like to thank all those children and their guardians who agreed to take part in the survey, and for the invaluable insights they have helped provide.