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A snapshot survey of 4,600 children across the world has revealed almost one in four Aussie kids (23%) wants to be a sports star when they grow up, and more than a third (36%) would spend a free day playing sport or other physical activity.

February 12, 2012

Global children’s survey: what do children really think?

A snapshot survey of 4,600 children across the world has revealed almost one in four Aussie kids (23%) wants to be a sports star when they grow up, and more than a third (36%) would spend a free day playing sport or other physical activity.

The story is very different in developing countries where children would prefer to be teachers (23%) or doctors (20%), and one in four (25%) say they would spend a free day helping their family by doing housework, farmwork or other chores.

These findings come from the ChildFund Alliance global children’s survey, Small Voices, Big Dreams, which polled children aged 10-12 from 44 countries – from Australia to Zambia. This is the second consecutive year that ChildFund has conducted the survey, one of the most comprehensive polls of children’s views in the world.

The results show that Aussie kids place huge importance on sports and have much more freedom and opportunity to play than children in developing countries.

“Play is a vital part of a child’s development,” says ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence. “The opportunity to play games or sports provides enormous benefits for kids, not only improving their physical skills but also their social and intellectual skills. Our survey finds a stark difference in recreational opportunities for children in different parts of the world. While kids in Australia have the resources and freedom to play, children in places like Laos and Timor Leste are needed to help their families from a young age and don’t have access to playgrounds or sports equipment.”

The results also show that Aussie kids put a high value on education, with almost a third of the children surveyed (31%) saying as Prime Minister their number one priority would be to improve education for children – a view held by 49% of their peers in developing countries.

Surprisingly, more Australian children (18%) than children in developing countries (14%) said the one thing they worry about most is war/terror/violence, with fear of being kidnapped at the top of the list. Children in developing countries are more worried about getting sick or contracting a disease – almost a quarter of the children surveyed (23%) reported this concern, compared with just 9% of Aussie children.

Mr Spence adds: “As a child-focused development agency, these findings contribute to our understanding of how children view and experience the world, particularly in developing countries where ChildFund works. The Small Voices, Big Dreams survey helps us to set our priorities, ensure that our programs are meeting the needs of the children we serve and also gives a voice to thousands of children whose insights and opinions are often muted.”

KEY SURVEY FINDINGS

1. If I could grow up to be anything I wanted …

  • 1 in 4 Australian children (23%) aspire to be professional athletes – a dream shared by just 5% of children in developing countries.
  • Children in developing countries most want to be teachers (23%) or doctors (20%) – compared to 8% and 4% of Australian children, respectively.
  • Australian children are much more likely than their peers in developing countries to dream of a career in the arts (20% vs 3%), working with animals (20% vs 2%) or in the service industry (19% vs 6%). Within these sectors, the top career choices for Australian children are actor, vet and hairdresser.

2. If I could spend the day doing anything I wanted …

  • Over a third of the Australian children surveyed (36%) said they would spend their free day playing sports or doing physical activity – compared to 22% of children in developing countries.
  • Friends are important to children in Australia and in developing countries, with 1 in 4 Australian children (24%) and 1 in 5 children in developing countries (19%) choosing to spend their free day with their friends.
  • 1 in 4 children from developing countries (25%) said they would spend their free day helping their family by doing housework, farm work or other chores, while 1 in 6 (17%) would spend the day studying or doing homework.
  • Less than 1% of children in Australia said they would spend the day studying or doing housework. They are more inclined to travel (10%) or shop (9%).

3. When you think about staying safe and healthy, what is the one thing you worry about the most?

  • Surprisingly, more Australian children (18%) than children in developing countries (14%) said the one thing they worry about most is war/terror/violence, with fear of being kidnapped at the top of the list.
  • 1 in 4 children in developing countries (23%) said their number one concern is getting sick or contracting a disease – compared with just 9% of Australian children.
  • Australian children are also worried about their diet, with 1 in 5 respondents (21%) citing weight and diet issues as their main concern.

4. If you were the leader of your country, what is the one thing you would do to improve children’s lives?

  • Across the world, children place high importance on education. Half of the children in developing countries (49%) and a third of children in Australia (31%) said that as leader of their country, the one thing they would do for other children is improve education.
  • The next priority for Australian children is to improve safety and security (16%), while for children in developing countries it is to provide more food (11%).

5. If you were the leader of your country, what is the one thing you would do to protect children?

  • Making the world safer is a high priority for children, with 54% of Australian children and 43% of children in developing countries saying they would improve safety and security by arresting and punishing offenders, creating a bigger and better police force and providing safe places for kids.
  • 1 in 4 children in Australia (25%) and in developing countries (25%) said they would improve support and awareness about issues such as child abuse, parenting and bullying, while a similar number (26% in Australia; 24% in developing countries) said they would prevent or prohibit dangers to children and enact new laws that better protected them.
  • 7% of Australian children mentioned anti-bullying measures – the highest response of any country – compared to less than 1% of children in developing countries.

6. Where do you feel the safest?

  • The vast majority of children in Australia (69%) and in developing countries (61%) said they feel safest at home, while 29% of Australian children and 22% of children in developing countries said they feel safest with their parents or family.

Click here for a summary of the survey findings.

Click here to watch a video of children in Laos being interviewed for the survey.