Relating Your Work to Children’s Rights

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Mar 07, 2014 @ 04:29 PM

Conducting research, or creating content, or engaging in marketing with youth can be tricky business. Many of us who have made our careers in the youth and family space know that attending to the legalities of youth marketing and research – online and offline – is just the beginning of considering the ethics of these endeavors. Many of us who spend significant time working on kid, tween or teen brands, products, and at youth oriented companies and organizations reflect upon the way our work affects the lives of children. Most of us question and worry about our work. We treat the job of communicating with and to children as a sacred one – not business as usual, but rather business that can make a difference – positive or negative – in the lives of children. But linking our work to children’s rights? Is that going too far?unicef

Not surprisingly, LEGO doesn’t think so. Recently, LEGO announced that they were going to start taking steps in their online and offline marketing to protect the rights of children, specifically those outlined in UNICEF's Children's Rights and Business Principles, a guide to help business encourage and protect children's rights. UNICEF contends that companies not only have a responsibility to ensure that communication and marketing does not have an adverse affect on children's rights, but that marketing should be encouraging children's rights.

These principles might be geared towards businesses, but they call to mind a more comprehensive document, United Nation’s Conventions of the Rights of the Child (UN-CRC), that serves as the first legally binding international instrument created to protect the human—civil, cultural, economic, political, and social—rights of children. 

Established in 1989, the UN-CRC outlines the basic rights and protections that all children should be given.  While the UN-CRC is a political instrument meant to help governments, it also gives us insight into a global idea of what rights children have.  Certainly all the articles of the UN-CRC are interesting, but three stood out to us and being particularly important for youth marketers and content creators:

Article 13: Freedom of Expression.  Children have the right to give and receive information as long as that information is not damaging to them or others.  Children’s voices are important, and Article 13 acknowledges that not only do children have voices, but what they have to say is valuable.  This article not only encourages creative expression and children’s rights to express their feelings and become active producers, it also encourages adults to remember that the voices of children should be heard.

Article 17: Right to Media.  Children have the right to get information that is important to their health and well-being.  Rather than discourage media, the UN-CRC encourages media specifically designed for children, media that considers the needs and interests of children.  More than just produce media for children, Article 17 also reminds us that this media should be available in multiple languages and be made available to all children.  Children have the right to access media that represents the diversity of the world.   

Article 31: Right to Play.  Children have the right to relax and play and join in cultural and artistic activities.  Article 31 is our favorite and one we completely agree with.  Play can promote health and foster relationships.  More importantly, play is a human right, something all children need to experience.  The UN-CRC doesn’t limit itself on what play and leisure mean.  Sports, games, toys, and relaxation should all be made available to children. 

The UN-CRC reminds us that children are active agents in the world, and that our work has the power to support them. It’s likely the work that you’re doing considers children’s voices, or children’s right to media or children’s need for play. But considering these “strategies” or brand equities or positioning as rights might raise the stakes in your own organizations and on your youth teams.

Tags: Social Issues, kids tweens teens, culture, news

Scripps’ Spell

Posted by Amy Henry on Thu, May 30, 2013 @ 03:51 PM

Spelling BeeTonight at 8 pm, families around the country will turn on ESPN to watch a hard fought final among a group of seasoned competitors. They’ve trained, they’ve endured, and now they will spell. It’s the highly anticipated final round of the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

What makes this event so mesmerizing?

  • Kids take center stage. Kids might have many opportunities to see themselves on television, but not often do they see a group of seemingly ordinary kids (not actors, not stage kids) rise to the occasion.
  • They all have a story...Just like Olympics coverage, which turns unknowns into bearers of epic narratives, the producers of the Scripps Spelling Bee showcase the heroic in its kid competitors, and importantly, its parent patrons.
  • Everyone has a shot. There’s no denying that the kind of perseverance and pure stamina required to learn so many words, and the ability to recall them from their memory on a stage gleaming with hot lights and audience feedback is a talent, the Scripps National Spelling Bee might make kids (and families) feel that anything is possible. Unlike athletes or singers that they’re used to seeing in the spotlight, these kids shine simply because they did their best – something parents promote and kids hope pays off the way they’ve been told it would. In a world in which sports have become more exclusive and elusive than ever, learning to spell seems possible regardless of a child’s shape or size.
  • It’s good clean fun. More and more, families seek out shows they can co-view together. Talent competitions have certainly scratched the itch for many…But they also include the risk of a rogue contestant who doesn’t take family entertainment to heart. And these marathon seasons require more commitment than many families can make. In one night, the Scripps National Spelling Bee captures the drama of an entire series. And what’s not to like about kids who have earned their way to the stage through studying…
  • There’s drama! Let’s be clear…Spelling wouldn’t be televised like a sporting event if there weren’t for some drama! The reality of the Scripps Spelling Bee makes it memorable and mesmerizing for parents and youth…These contestants will cheer, and probably shed a tear. Their precociousness will come off as endearing, and exhausting, sometimes in the same breath. And kids and parents will negotiate their understanding of these extraordinary kids together…

Tune in and let us know your favorite moments! We’ll be watching…

Tags: Education, youth research, TV, youth media, news

Five Ways to Make Earth Day Fun

Posted by Amy Henry on Mon, Apr 22, 2013 @ 03:50 PM

Celebrate Earth DayHappy Earth Day to all our YouthBeat friends! Youth’s involvement in the environmental movement is, in some ways, both a timely and a timeless topic. Children and nature have been indelibly bonded in literature, social history and even psychology (with well-being often linked to children’s ability to connect with nature in positive ways). This cohort of youth certainly sees the environment as important, although in the past few years our YouthBeat data has shown kids’, tweens’ and teens’ concerns related to global warming to be waning.  We know that this group is inundated by messages related to sustainable living, and that might be part of the problem. The normalization of green discourse means that environmental action might lack a sense of urgency surrounding it.  So how can you make your messages matter to kids? Take a cue from these companies and organizations who are seizing this Earth Day as an opportunity for fun.

  1. Tree Fu Tom, featuring Sprout’s newest superhero, reminds preschoolers that nature is full of adventure. And Tree Fu Tom shows that kids don’t have to choose nature shows or adventure shows – they can get excitement alongside their environmentally friendly programming.
  2. Get creative. One way to encourage kids to recycle is to show them the bins…Another way? Remind them of all the great things you can make if you pay attention to the art tools available in your home…Check out Scrapkins’ site and the Scrapkins Collector app for inspiration.
  3. Put kids on the case. Saving energy starts at home, and kids love being put in charge of making positive change (and telling their parents and sibling what to do!). Check out the Energystar site, designed for kids, for ways to make environmental issues accessible for them.  And remember, putting kids in charge makes getting things done less of a chore and more of a welcomed challenge.
  4. Inspire youth to take action. It might not sound like fun, but sometimes kids, tweens and teens need to know that doing the right thing can sometimes be recognized. The Children’s Environmental Health Network’s Nsedu Obot Witherspoon (NOW) Youth Leadership Award acknowledges tweens and teens who have engaged in good work surrounding the issue of children’s health issues caused by environmental problems. This organization acknowledges that their future depends on tweens and teens taking an interest in this important aspect of the sustainability story while reminding youth that their participation in the cause can reflect positively on them.
  5. Finally, focus on entertainment. Jack Johnson contributes to the cause by crafting a song that kids can’t help but sing: the “3 R’s song”. Enjoy!

Tags: Education, Social Issues, play, outside, culture, news

YouthBeat Expands Expertise Adding Preschool Syndicated Study

Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Jun 20, 2012 @ 03:18 PM

YouthBeat is excited to announce the launch of YouthBeat Jr.! YouthBeat Jr. extends the scope of YouthBeat, our syndicated study and consulting service that examines the lives of youth ages 6-18 and their parents to the 2-5 set. YouthBeat Jr. is grounded in a robust survey designed specificaPreschool Researchlly to unlock the authentic attitudes and real experiences of preschooler parents.

We ask about their parenting style and decision-making approaches. We find out how their children spend their time, what they love and what mom and dad want for them. We cover topics ranging from breakfast foods to book reading to birthday parties. And we ensure that our interpretation includes insight by bringing our applied and academic expertise to everything we do.

See the press release here.

To order your subscription to YouthBeat Jr. or to learn more, please contact Amy Henry by email at or call 312.828.9200.

Tags: youth research, preschool, youthbeat jr., news, market research