SALT LAKE CITY — Children between the ages of 6 and 12 are adopting some adult-style worries, according to the annual "State of the Kids" survey conducted by Highlights magazine. But they're also developing hearts for those who hurt. And their love of and respect for family continues strong.
Those are among the findings of the 2,000-kids nationwide poll, which found that more than 70 percent of kids take their concerns and big ideas first to their parents and that an increasing number of kids (25 percent, up from 2009's 17 percent) list their teachers as people they respect.
One of the changes in the survey is the subject matter about which kids worry. While Highlights editor Christine French Cully notes in the report that children ages 6 to 8 "seem to reside in an idyllic childhood, with no worries," concerns start to pile up as they get older. The children were asked what worried them the most. In order, they worry about friends and family, then about not doing well in school, about violence and safety, bullying, social and political issues (the latter two tied) and about health concerns.
In the report about the survey, Jennifer Miller, who writes "Confident Parents, Confident Kids," theorizes the increase in worry and the subject matter may result because technology gives kids instant access to news and their lives are increasingly consumed with media of various types. She also warns that hearing the "same negative news" repeatedly "can become problematic because young kids especially may not understand that it is the same news cycle being repeated, not another live event."
Yikes. I hadn't even thought about the inability of little ones to sort through repetition, but it makes sense. I remember vividly how hard it was to shield my daughters, then preschoolers, from the endless images of the planes hitting the Twin Towers on Sept. 11. They still saw it pretty much everywhere we went and it visibly distressed them. I never at the time considered they might be thinking that planes hitting buildings was a common occurrence.
This particular survey contains some heartening numbers regarding kids, alongside what seems to be bad news. The vast majority — 90 percent — say the grownups in their lives care about them, and just shy of 60 percent believe the world cares about them, as well. They say if they saw someone picking on someone else, they'd try to do something about it; 93 percent would take some sort of action and 23 percent would act to stop it even if they had to stand alone.
I hope the world doesn't take that deep concern about others away from them as they get older and perhaps a tad cynical.
Who do they respect? Teachers came out on top at 25 percent, followed closely by family members (20 percent). Celebrities and friends tied at 15 percent each. It's interesting to note, though, that when they have something to say that they think is important, they are more likely to tell their friends than their teachers, although they share it with their parents first.
There are some interesting gaps in what the kids had to say about themselves. When they were asked what they "most valued" about themselves, 1 in 5 girls said they valued their physical appearance. That came out on top.
Boys, however, most value their own intelligence (26 percent for boys versus 17 percent for girls). Also at 17 percent is where girls value being "caring, nice and kind" — 1 percentage point behind the girls who value being "creative and artistic." "Physical abilities" was also a popular choice for boys, at 21 percent, while they put decidedly smaller value on their appearance and creativity.