Do kids really care about current affairs?
With the internet, magazines and video games - how much do kids really take notice of the news? And should we as parents try to engage them with current affairs?
We speak to Nicky Cox, Editor of First News, the widest read children’s publication to explain just how the next generation of kids are developing a nose for real news and why far from shying away, kids do care about current affairs:
Piers Morgan and I had talked, on and off, for years about launching a newspaper for children in Britain. Both journalists, he was editor of The Mirror and I was editorial director at BBC Children's, launching around 50 magazines for young people over the years. But there wasn't a single newspaper for kids, not one, in a country where newspaper reading was part of the national culture.
So, over lunch (or was it tea?) at The Ivy, we vowed to right this wrong and, just 12 weeks later, First News, the national newspaper for children was on the newsstand.
When First News was launched, everyone said we were mad, that kids weren't interested in the news and, if they were, they'd read it on the internet. They asked us what research we'd done. Erm, none, actually. But we figured a lifetime working in news and children's media meant we had a nose for it!
Fast forward five (and a bit) years later and we are now the proud publishers of Britain's widest-read publication for children with more than one million readers a week, who delve into our pages at home and in more than a third of schools. At last count our exact readership was exactly 1,047,543 readers but, in truth, that figure is climbing every day. Yes, that figure is climbing EVERY DAY, totally bucking the trend seen by UK newspapers for adults which are in steady decline.
But, hey, all is not lost for them as First News has created their next generation of readers, giving young people the newspaper habit. So, as well as single-handedly saving the newspaper industry, the truly rewarding thing for First News now is that, as well as us explaining the week's national and international news for young people, we have also given them a voice in the UK.
My view is that, if the world is going to become a better place, the next generation has to be better informed than the last. That means young people growing up with an understanding of the world they live in. First News makes them think. But our (fantastic) readers have engaged in a way that has taken even me aback.
For instance, back in 2008 we ran an editorial feature about child soldiers, reporting on the lives of ten-year-olds in Uganda who were on the frontline fighting. Our readers could not believe that children their age, and younger, were given real guns, were being killed and were killing. They asked us what they could do to help stop this. So we launched a campaign called Conflict Children to shine a light on the issues. What we thought was a small part of the campaign was a letter we produced for our readers to sign up to, calling for the international community to work together to find ways to stop the use of children in adult wars. We thought that, maybe, hundreds or a few thousand of our readers might sign the letter. But we were stunned when 235,000 young people signed.
The British Government was stunned too, so much so that David Miliband, who was Foreign Secretary at the time, brought forward a review of Britain's child soldier policy and a special session was called at the United Nations. Wow! We really had made children's voices heard.
Now, we see that as a fundamental part of our mission. So, not only do we deliver the news to children every week in an appropriate form that they understand, we give them the opportunity to be heard about the issues that matter most to them.
Do you agree that it’s so important for kids to learn about the world around them? If so, First News has very kindly offered us two annual subscriptions to giveaway to our readers – for your chance to win just enter our Competition now.