Everybody’s Talking About – Jan/Feb

Looking out for fake news

According to a new report published by Ofcom, nine out of 10 children say they ‘always, ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ stop to consider the truth of a story they come across online, demonstrating that youngsters are aware of the concept of fake news. Reporting on the attitudes and usage of media channels by children and their parents, the media watchdog found that 99 per cent of 12-15 year olds spend nearly 21 hours a week online, and 74% of this age group have a social media profile. Mauro Silva, Senior Vice President at Modern Times Group, said: “These young people are amongst the first generation that are actually digital and technology dependent. In our post-truth society, where objective facts are less important in shaping people’s opinions than what appeals to emotions or personal beliefs, one might assume that children would be particularly vulnerable to fake news – this younger generation is perhaps more discerning in the digital environment. The so- called ‘Gen Zs’, aged between 7 and 20, are defined by having a sense of purpose and wanting to work for the greater good. They care a lot about who transmits the news, and they trust their inner circle of friends much more than any media corporation. It’s great to see that young people are taking an interest in the news, and learning to be astute when coming across questionable sources.”

Eagle-eyed school children to look out for Scotland’s favourite birds

The RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch – which takes place during the first half of the spring term until 23 February – is a chance for children to put down their books and get outside to experience and learn about the nature that lives in their local community. Last year, almost 7,000 children and teachers took part in Scotland. Blackbirds held onto their number one spot as the most common playground visitor with 87 per cent of schools spotting one during their watch. Robins, house sparrows and woodpigeons all featured prominently in the results, as well as smaller birds such as blue tits, coal tits and wrens.

Laura Curtis-Moss, RSPB Scotland’s education officer explains: “The Big Schools’ Birdwatch is a great way for children to engage with the nature around where
they live and go to school as well as bring numeracy to life. At this time of year, when the weather can be rather dull and cold, spotting birds either outside or from the classroom can bring an exciting flash of colour to the day. Nature can have such a positive impact on their physical health, emotional wellbeing and education and the Birdwatch is a perfect opportunity for them to experience their local nature first hand.”

For the first time the RSPB has also partnered with Cbeebies favourites Twirlywoos to provide exciting new activities and resources specifically tailored to Early Years, to help get their mini Birdwatches off to a flying start. The Big Schools’ Birdwatch is a free activity and only takes an hour to complete. To take part and help the next generation of children start their own wildlife adventure, visit rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch

Supporting premature babies

The new £1.5 million Family Fund will be available from April 1 for parents of premature babies to help with the additional costs they face, such as for travel to and from hospital or food and drink. Around 4,400 babies are born prematurely (under 36 weeks) every year in Scotland and estimates show the average additional cost to parents is over £200 a week. Caroline Lee-Davey, Chief Executive of Bliss Scotland, commented: “This fund will help more parents to be with their baby for as much time as possible and to play a hands-on role in their babies’ care, which we know is best for babies and families. Bliss Scotland looks forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Government in 2018 to ensure the fund works in the best way for families, as well as on the delivery of the other neonatal recommendations in Best Start.”

2018 Fringe schools poster competition

School children across Scotland are urged to submit their artistic impressions of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe through any form of creative art, with three winning entries to feature as the official posters for the 2018 Fringe. Winning designs will feature in an exhibition, alongside 150 other shortlisted entries, that will take place at Dynamic Earth between June and August 2018. The competition is open to all Primary 1 to Senior 6 pupils at schools in Scotland. Full details of the competition, along with the entry pack prize information and learning resources, can be downloaded at edfringe.com/poster. The deadline for entries is Friday March 9, 2018.

Jumping in muddy puddles

This spring will see the return of the UK’s muddiest fundraising event for little ones – Peppa Pig’s Muddy Puddle Walk for Save the Children. Between 23 and 29 April, nurseries, early years groups, families and children up and down the country are being encouraged to take part in a Muddy Puddle Walk to raise money for the international children’s charity. Sophie Pirouet, Fundraising Campaigns Manager at Save the Children, says: “It’s so easy to take part and it’s the perfect excuse to explore the outdoors with your little ones. By jumping in muddy puddles like Peppa Pig you can help give vulnerable children around the world a brighter future.” Sign up now at MuddyPuddleWalk.org for your free Muddy Puddle Walk Fundraising Pack full of fun Peppa Pig inspired activities to help you get started.

Being star-struck

Astronomy experts at the University of Birmingham have created a new series of star constellations for the modern day, each of which celebrates iconic figures who are inspirational to young people from the worlds of sport, entertainment, science and politics. Examples include Usain Bolt doing his celebratory lightning-bolt stance, Sir David Attenborough in the shape of a blue whale, JK Rowling through Harry Potter’s iconic glasses, Mo Farah doing his Mobot celebration and a spaceship for Tim Peake. The project, entitled “Look Up To Stars” arrives in the wake of new research revealing that 72 per cent of children have never looked up at the night sky to find a star constellation, while almost one third (29%) wouldn’t be able to recognise a single classical constellation. The designs have been created alongside The Big Bang Fair with a view to getting more children interested in stargazing and the wider universe. Emma Willett, who led the University of Birmingham research team, commented: “We really hope these new creations will help people of all ages develop their interest in space and astronomy, working to inspire the next generation of astronomers to take an interest in the field.”

The pants rule

A national campaign to help keep young children safe from sexual abuse has been launched by the NSPCC with the release of a new mobile phone game and the screening of a prime-time TV ad. Central to the campaign is the return of Pantosaurus the dinosaur, who will once again be promoting the PANTS rule – Privates are private; Always remember your body belongs to you; No means no; Talk about secrets that upset you and Speak up – someone can help. ‘Playtime with Pantosaurus’ is available on iOS and Android devices as a free download and features four fun mini games where players test their skills against Pantosaurus and his friends whilst learning the PANTS rule to keep themselves safe. 

Research by the NSPCC has revealed that as many as one in every twenty school children will suffer some form of sexual abuse while Police Scotland recorded a total of 4,368 sexual offences against children in 2015-16, a seven per cent rise on the previous year.

The importance of the Talk PANTS campaign has been further reinforced by a YouGov survey, commissioned by the NSPCC, which showed that 92 per cent of parents of children aged four to eight think that it is important to speak to their sons or daughters about sexual abuse. Directing children to the PANTS game or downloading the PANTS activity pack from the NSPCC website will help make it easier and more natural for parents to have what some find to be difficult and sensitive conversations about staying safe. Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC, said: “Most parents now recognise that they need to speak to their young children about the dangers they may face from sexual abuse, both in the online and real world, as they grow up. However, the reality of having these conversations can be both daunting and very uncomfortable. That is why the NSPCC has created the Talk PANTS campaign and continues to develop new ways for Pantosaurus to help young children learn how to stay safe from sexual abuse.”

The NSPCC Talk PANTS campaign will run on television, Video On Demand and Social channels until January 31.

More fruit & veg on the menu

January sees the revamp of the ‘Eat Better Feel Better’ website, which offers practical advice with the aim of increasing fruit and veg consumption, and cutting unhealthy snacking and sugary drink consumption in children. The site has tips and tools for families to help them make simple, quick and cheap changes to how they shop, cook and eat. Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell says: “A new year is a great chance to take a look at our eating habits and we want to support everyone in Scotland to make positive, healthy choices. Our Eat Better Feel Better website, which has lots of tips such as recipes for simple, nutritious and affordable meals the whole family will enjoy, as well as ideas for healthy snacks and how to handle fussy eaters.”

20 Years of Scottish friendly children’s book tour

The Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour launched its 20th anniversary celebrations in January. To mark the occasion, award-winning authors Lari Don and Ross Collins visited pupils at Shawlands Primary School in Glasgow. During the event, Lari Don captivated the school children with her mythical fables and Ross Collins, a former pupil of the school, held a live-drawing session to bring the stories to life in front of the children’s eyes. The Children’s Book Tour is supported by Scottish Friendly and organised by Scottish Book Trust, the national charity transforming lives through reading and writing. The tour visits both primary and secondary schools and has enthralled more than 100,000 children since it began in 1998. The 20th anniversary will be a year-long celebration and will reach every local authority in Scotland. Former Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson will participate in the Tour in March, visiting libraries in Dundee, Stirling, Glasgow, Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders. The highlight of the 20th Anniversary takes place on June 6 with a Jamboree Celebration event at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow. Headlining the anniversary celebrations will be bestselling children and teen author, Dame Jacqueline Wilson. Over 2,000 children from all across Scotland will attend and a bus travel fund will be offered for schools further afield.

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