When you’re a kid you don’t always feel like your voice is heard or that your opinion is taken seriously, but one group is trying to change that. A survey of children in 16 countries is asking how kids feel about their lives around the world. The Children’s World Study hopes through their survey to “collect solid and representative data on children’s lives and daily activities, their time use and in particular on their own perceptions and evaluations of their well-being.” The study asked nearly 20,000 eight-year-olds about important aspects of their daily life such as home and family life, money and belongings, their friends and neighborhood, attitude towards school, knowledge of children’s rights, and perceived well-being and happiness.
The study which was organized by the Social Policy Research Unit at York University, found that a majority of the children were happy with their life. However, approximately six percent of the children ranked as having "low well-being." Children in countries such as Ethiopia, South Korea and England had the highest levels of low well-being at more than nine percent compared to Romania and Columbia where low well-being was rated below three percent. In terms of overall happiness, England ranked right in the middle of all countries surveyed. England scored highest on the sections of health, safety, and living situation (including family).
Money was a key concern for a third of the participants who said they were "often" or "always" concerned about the amount of money their family had. Countries where the children were worried most about money were Columbia, Israel, Nepal, and Spain. It is upsetting to think about children having financial stress at such a young age.
School was ranked very positively, with 62 percent of children answering that they "totally agreed that they liked going to school." In another survey of children age ten, only 52 percent said they liked going to school, and the percentage decreased even further with 12-year-olds. Children in Germany, South Korea and England were the least likely to say they enjoyed school, compared to Algeria and Ethiopia where they were most positive.
The children's opinions on school might have been affected by the problem of bullying. Large numbers of children said that bullying was an issue for them. Overall, 41 percent said that they had been left out by classmates, and 48 percent had been hit by a fellow student in the last month. England was the only country that had the highest percentage of children who had been both hit and left out. South Korea was the only country to rank among the lowest in both categories. Thankfully, in the surveyed groups of ten- and twelve-year-olds, these occurrences of bullying decreased.
Many are worried about England's poor comparative performance on the children's survey. “It’s deeply worrying that eight-year-old children living in England are less happy than children living in a wide range of other countries across the world," said Sam Royston who is the Policy Director at The Children’s Society. To help fix the issues with bullying and negative feelings towards school, Royston suggests that it is up to England's government to put children first, adding, "the Government should consider making it a legal requirement for schools in England to provide counseling and to allocate children’s mental health funding to promote children’s well-being, rather than just dealing with mental health problems after they occur."
The United States was not included in the children's survey. The countries that participated were Algeria, Colombia, Estonia, Ethiopia, Germany, Israel, Malta, Nepal, Norway, Poland, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Turkey and England. The next wave of surveys is set to include Finland, Italy, and Indonesia. The coming information will hopefully paint an even clearer picture of children's experiences around the world and how it can be improved.