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The children of the digital age: reflections on the Unicef 2017 Report

Play station addicted, always connected to the internet with smartphone at hand even at night: they are digital natives, children and young people born after 2001 for which the virtual and real life are often intertwined with very blurred boundaries. The latest annual report by UNICEF “The State of Childhood in the World 2017”: Sons of the digital age”, published at the end of December 2017, confirms this scenario without any doubt. The data are clear: a 1 of 3 web users are children, 71% of children in the world is connected and in most developed countries a teenager sends an average of 4,000 messages per month, one every six minutes!

What do children do online?
All over the world, users connected to the internet are becoming increasingly younger and more mobile. Data from high connectivity countries report that children begin to use the internet to an ‘increasingly early age: on average 10 years and in some countries such as Bulgaria even at 7 years.

In the US, 92% of teenagers between 13 and 17 years declares daily online access through mobile devices. The situation in Europe is very similar: children access the internet from multiple locations and use different devices, particularly smartphones, but also fixed and portable computers, tablets and games consoles.

Although children and adolescents are digital pioneers, the range of activities they perform online seems to be rather limited. From a research conducted in 2016 in South Africa, Chile and Bulgaria, from the Unicef Innocenti Research Center, the London School of Economics and the EU Kids Online network, children surf online mainly to have fun and communicate.

In particular, teenagers love social media on mobile to be able to communicate with their peers in peace, often in the privacy of their room or from a friend’s house. The result is more personal, more private and less controlled online access and therefore less secure.

The Unicef report in fact shows how the Internet increases the vulnerability of young people to a variety of risks, including access to harmful content, cyber-bullying and misuse of their personal information and images.

The data are clear: in 2016, a total of 57,335 URLs (web address) contained pedo-pornographic material. Of these, 60% were hosted on servers located in Europe and 37% in North America. 53% of children abused and exploited to produce this content are 10 years or less. The number of images of children aged 11 to 15 is increasing: from 30% in 2015 to 45% in 2016.

A call for security against the risks of the digital world
Unfortunately, too little has been done to protect young people from the risks of the digital world and to increase their access to secure online content. “Only collective action by governments, the private sector, children’s organizations, academics, families – reads the report of the international association for children – can make digital space more accessible and secure for children”.

First of all to be regulated is the market of toys and technological devices for children and adolescents. In recent years, the iPhone, iPod and iPad, equipped with technologies initially intended for adults have become the most desired toys by young people. Children play with tablets, smartphones and other talking devices even before learning to walk or express themselves. In this perspective, the very poor regulation in the sector, only helps to accelerate the continuous innovation of toy manufacturers and the technology industry, which proceeds faster than the parents can understand, consumer groups can serve and governments can legislate. From the intelligent toys that listen to the children while they play, to the usual use of Amazon Echo and the great amount of software and hardware used around them, even the youngest children live in a world that is always connected. This raises important questions about the invasion of privacy and security at home and online, as well as serious concerns about what companies can do with information recorded by toys, how such information can be used and protected and who can access it. On the other hand, parents and even teachers often do not have the tools to protect children from the possible risks that could run in the network or to teach them to have a critical thinking on the use of new technologies. It is no coincidence that in the Unicef ​​report to the question “How did you learn to use the Internet?” 42% of the children replied that they had learned on their own, while 39% – mostly young people living in low-income countries – answered having learned from friends or brothers.

At the same time, even the school seems not to keep up with the times: teenagers have declared, in fact, that the use of technology in schools is significantly behind the digital practice outside school hours.

Signs of change
Although there is still a lot to be done about the “digital” addiction of children and adolescents, some signs of change seem to be coming. In Europe and the United States, arguments on the smarthphone and social dependence of children and teenagers, often related to the increase in depression and suicides, are growing

It’s dated few days ago the letter sent to Apple by two of its major shareholders, the manager Jana partners and the California Calstrs teacher pension fund, in which the company is urged to take countermeasures to prevent children and adolescents become “junkies” of smartphones. Also in the letter, promptly intercepted and published by the Wall Street Journal, it is asked to provide precise guidelines to parents and to develop software that will help the “parental control”.

At the beginning of December Facebook also tackled this issue, introducing “Messenger Kids” into the US market, an app that allows you to exchange messages from an early age, but under parental control.

Has also made news the choice of the French government to ban smartphones from all primary and secondary schools of First Instance. In an interview with Le Figaro, the head of the Ministry of Education, announced that “In nine months the phones will have to be turned off as soon as they have passed the school door and not just during the lessons”.

At the same time, projects and courses aimed at parents and trainers are becoming increasingly frequent, with the aim of reflecting on the implications of the use of new technologies among children, promoting a modulated exposure or even a detoxification.

La Détox Digitale des enfants by Bloom
Ocarina was born choosing to say no to video, web connectivity and touch display. A mission supported and shared also by the realities with which it collaborates. First of all “Bloom – the radio des enfants” that in these days is proposing a nice and certainly useful initiative aimed at parents who feel the need to start a “digital diet” for themselves and their children. It is a program that aims to free children from the screens: in February 2018, every day for a month will be suggested not only games, shows, culinary recipes, dances to share with the family, but also information, tips for a life without a screen… or almost. If you are interested and would like more information visit the Bloom fb page

Learning in freedom: Experiences about Children’s Active Education between game, music and nature

“Help me do it alone.” On this principle are based the methods of active education that the child does not have to be spectator of the learning process but protagonist.
Through experience, space exploration, building and destroying, relationship with others, the little one will have the opportunity to become a free man and with his own critical thinking.

In fact, Maria Montessori, the founder of modern pedagogy and Active Education in Italy, supports the importance of educating the child to independence and autonomy. This does not mean leaving him free to do whatever he wants, but to help him do his experiences, discover and acquire knowledge and skills.

The activity of the child thus becomes the central point of the educational process, as well as the environment and educational materials are of crucial importance.

Here are some principles inspired by an Active child’s Education:
The educator must observe and never intervene
The task of parents and educators is to help them accomplish their own achievements as they learn to walk, run, and wash. “The master must minimize his intervention. It must be like a guardian angel, who watches for the child not to be disturbed in his free activity. (M. Montessori “Educating Freedom”)

Educational environments must be child-friendly
The school environment must be welcoming and familiar. Inside all the furniture and objects (chairs, tables, sinks …) must be modeled and used according to the needs of the small. It is important that spaces are open so that children can move easily and autonomously, but also interact with the outside environment.

Educate children with the right teaching materials
The teaching materials should be simple even if specially studied, such as objects to be assembled, ribbons, cards that can promote the intellectual development of the child and encourage self-correction of the error.
Educational materials must also educate the senses, develop motor skills, logical-mathematical, linguistic and musical skills.

Game is the baby’s work
The game plays an important role in helping children to be active, to learn to make choices, and to increase their mastery of their actions. As children grow, they have to experience a wide range of disciplines (art, music, language, science, mathematics, social relationships); Each of these matters is important for the development of a complex and integrated brain.
The toys must be simple, usable in autonomy, so very safe too. Through these, children learn to know themselves, others, and the world around them.
Active education prefers individual and free games to collective ones though supervised by the educator. The child must be free to do so while respecting the order of things and be able to collaborate with others by following the method of mutual teaching.

The child must be in contact with nature
It is important to make the child in contact with nature as much as possible, because the feeling of nature grows with attendance and exercise. A child left in the midst of nature pulls out muscle energies higher than what parents think.

Children should approach music to preschool age
According to Maria Montessori, music promotes autonomy in the small, the spirit of collaboration and participation, respect for each other, freedom. This is because it has the ability to open up the heart and make it more sensitive and human.
Compared to the language that tends to create walls between people, music unites all men into a single large community and must therefore remain a good accessible for everyone.

Halloween party and children’s fears

Every day children are fighting with their own shadows and for this reason many people think is useful to avoid other difficulties to them, making children growing up in a sweetened world without confrontation with fear. In some cases parents also demonize folk tales that speak of bad, orcs or monstrous characters that could increase the sense of insecurity and anxiety of children. Over the years many stories, considered too sad and bloody, have even been rewritten and transformed into colorful and sparkling tales where the characters have happy families and happy lives.

Fairy tales, however, are a metaphor of life and how can be denied to a child that death exists, as well as pain and difficult times to overcome?

Actually fear is a primary emotion and probably has a self-protective function which is useful to the growth of the child, because it activates in him behaviors that defend it from potential dangers: for example, if a child would not be afraid of the dark would not be held back by walk in unsafe and dark places, risking easily to get hurt.

The various fears of children, during their growth, are potentially infinite and depend largely on individual histories, but there are a number of fears that may be considered typical of developmental age (Quadrio Aristarchi, Puggelli, 2006): separation, darkness, death, abandonment, snakes, ghosts, monsters, doctor, etc. (To learn more we recommend the article: Quali sono le paure dei bambini …)

Precisely for this reason it is essential that a parent will help the child to recognize and understand their fears helping him to externalize and to overcome them. It is also important to understand when, behind some fears, are hiding real needs and requests for help.

Many times the fears of the children also end up to distress parents and often these are the ones that feed them through the mechanism called “emotional contagion.”

If parents are frightened, the child will be much more scared because he learns and reinforces that stimulous is really dangerous; if parents minimize the events on the contrary help him to frame the fact into perspective (Quadrio Aristarchi, Puggelli, 2006).

The storytelling of the fairy tales is definitely one of the most effective among the various methods recommended by child psychologists to help children deal with their fears.

The famous psychologist Bruno Bettelheim argued that telling scary stories to children was important because it helped them to exorcise the anguish and to disclose it externally.

Through stories children learn to live the strongest emotions in a secure manner, without being directly involved, and enjoying the reassuring proximity of a parent. At the same time they learn that, as in fairy tales the heroes get the kingdom and the happiness, even in real life you can overcome adversity with strength, intelligence and courage.

In almost all the folk tales we find some common elements as fear, courage, defeat of the danger, happy ending.

Bad characters in folktales embodies precisely the danger that will be defeated by the bravery and intelligence. Stories always have a happy ending and all the good characters are stronger and happier than before.

“Fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”

~ G. K. Chesterton, writer

Talking about Ocarina #1 Halloween Writing Competition

It’s the time of year for Spooky Stories. How would you like to hear your own words read out on Storynory, this Halloween? You would? Well get writing!

Richard will be reading the winning entries out here on Storyory.com

And the grand prize is a tough and stylish MP3 player made in Italy by our friends at Ocarina.

Ocarina comes preloaded with stories – including some from Storynory – and as a special bonus, the winner can hear her or his story on the player.

It’s easy to carry, thanks to its distinctive loop handle. It plays hundreds of mp3 files through a loudspeaker, and it can record live sounds. Its smooth non-toxic rubber coating is secure, safe and durable.

Entirely Made in Italy, it is designed and produced in Florence,

So are you ready?

Send in your scariest story to this email address comp@storynory.com ( that’s ‘comp’ short for competition )

There are only two rules – your story should not be more than 900 words And you should get it to us by October 27 – so get writing quick!

Today Ocarina listens #03 “Tim Learns About the Olympics” to Storynory

2016 is the year of the Olympics! After the excitement for the Olympic Games of last August we just ended to feel great emotions looking at the Paralympic Games, which was attended by over 4,300 athletes, in their own unique and (without doubt) exceptional way.

From the first edition of the modern era, in Athens in 1896, it has been 120 years, but the Olympic Games still continue to fascinate young and old people.
The question is how many people know the history and the importance of the Ancient Olympics, born in ancient Greece where they had sacred significance and the strength to interrupt the wars to let the sport win? The ancient Olympic Games were staged for almost a thousand years before falling into oblivion for a long time.

We like to greet the closing of the 31 ° th modern Olympics with a funny story entitled “Tim Learns About the Olympics” proposed by Storynory, a new Ocarina’s partner that collects more than 100 audio stories for children to download online for free.

Together with the young Tim you can learn of the history of the Olympic games in a curious and funny way.

Founded in 2005, Storynory has grown in popularity, every month around half a million mp3 files are downloaded from families, teachers and educators.  You can find a mix of original stories, fairy tales, myths and original stories, all read by professional actors and recorded with a high quality sound.

Playlist Bloom – la radio des enfants

This week we asked to our friends of Bloom, the best radio for children made in France, to propose a selection of their work.
We are very happy to publish here their response:
 
Bloom – the children’s radio – produces rich and varied audio tracks to listen with ears in alert and eyes wide open to the world.
We launched Bloom four years ago, noting a lack in this sector in France. There is an huge offer of video animation for children: cartoons, movies, video games, mobile applications. We wanted to offer something different, an alternative to this world of all screens.
There are also many CD of tales and nursery rhymes, but not a real media Radio for children. We started with enthusiasm in producing playful and intelligent tracks: tales and nursery rhymes, of course, but also entries on the world of gymnastics, of children’s questions and stories, games… We can do everything with the audio!
We met a great success with the arrival of our first compilation: Bloom – radio des enfants: Y’en a marre! production where we joined with the children to see how beautiful life is. Children and parents have listened to our programs with family fun. It has been especially our quirky tone that caught their attention.
We then published several compilations: Bloom – radio des enfants: En route! to go around the world, Trop fort!where we discover the great heroes of everyday life, Le froid c’est magique describing the winter delights, une journée avec Bloom! to accompany the youngest in the awakening, and a whole series of questions to see life through the eyes of children, solar polar expedition programs of two eco-adventurers, and many other things …
All of our compilations are designed to be listened to by car, train or plane, to occupy the children during long trips.
Bloom – radio des enfants is primarily a proposal for children to rediscover the pleasure of listening, as we did when young. Allow them to imagine, to dream and to project to the world. All early childhood’s professionals agree in saying what the sound is good for the development and welfare of the child.
We have prepared for you today a selection of English-French bilingual songs that are sure to satisfy your children. You will be amazed to see the words repeated in a foreign language with much ease.
But the aim is above all to have fun and dance!
Good listening to Bloom – radio des enfants and see you soon.

Music as rebirth. The history of the Orchestra of Children founded by Abreu

Today we want to tell you about a beautiful story born in Venezuela 40 years ago. In 1975 the economist and musician José Antonio Abreu founded El Sistema, an educational and musical pattern system that guarantees free and open access to music for children of all walks of life. The system has as its main purpose the protection of children and young people through commitment and the study of music, preventing anti-social and criminal behavior. An artistic and social importance at the same time. José Antonio Abreu started with the idea of redeeming the young people of his country, but to date the ‘Fundación del Estado para el System of Juvenile and Orquesta Infantil de Venezuela’ has become much more, which is a model for the entire South America and for all Western countries. In Italy, only six years ago he was born the System of Orchestras and Choirs Youth and Children with the aim of spreading the music education as a response to the difficulties which affect the youth. Already more than 8500 children and teens, aged 4 to 16 years, are participating in the growth of this social project, meeting 44 orchestral Nuclei distributed in 14 Italian regions.

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Even the Fiesole School of Music is sponsoring it, like many other realities scattered throughout Italy. In the district of Piagge, in collaboration with the high school Duca D’Aosta and Unicoop Scuola, it was born the orchestra project Mammamù. Mamma Musica, keeping music at the heart as an effective instrument of integration. As told by the master Antonello Farulli: “the criterion that ordered the inspiring ideas of the training program was that the deprivation even before discomfort and marginality is the cause of most of the individual’s intellectual development problems. Sound-Movement-Mind is the human path. The mind, the thought, borns from the voice of the mother, through movement. Our job is to trace the human being in the opposite direction. From the mind through movement we come to the sound. We try thus to solicit in children all the perception that somehow the environment had not solicited in them. Studying the music means to be born again from a educational and perceptual point of view. In Piagge as in Ramallah, in Palestine, in Venezuela, but also in Medellin into the Colombia of Narcos, or in Mexico rather than in Brooklyn, the music indicates the path that leads human beings from fear to freedom. ”

If you have the wish to go further into that, we recommend the documentary over El Sistema, directed by Alberto Arvelo, entitled Tocar y Luchar (2004) and that of Helmut Failoni and Francesco Merini “The other voice of music. Traveling with Claudio Abbado between Caracas and Havana “(2006) and the film “El sistema. Music to change life” (2008) by Paul Smaczny and Mary Stodtmeier.

 

 

Our playlist with the most famous Andersen’s tales

On the occasion of the Andersen Festival, the most important Italian Festival dedicated to fairy tales and theater, that will be held in Sestri Levante from June 9 to 12, this week we dedicate our playlist to the famous Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen.
Translated all over the world, the tales of Andersen are directed to both children and adults and, although are characterized by a colloquial and ingenue writing, they actually contain moral teachings that are sometimes very sophisticated.

Many of Andersen’s fairy tales have inspired cartoons and famous animated films, loved by children and not only, as “The Little Mermaid” and “Frozen”.
Below we highlight some of the most famous tales in cartoon version in three different languages: Italian, English and French:

The Little Mermaid

The little match girl

The snow queen

Le scarpette rosse

La principessa sul pisello

Mignolina

Le briquet

Le sapin dessin animé

La princesse et le porcher

Il brutto anatroccolo – Sinfonia