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April 29, 2009

children in science news

A topic that's been running through my mind over the last few days, and I'd appreciate other people's ideas about: children are at the center of an awful lot of science news stories.

Case in point: the UK's Sun newspaper (amongst many others) on the child who holds the key to swine flu. There's also been a fair amount of swine flu reporting focusing on child suffers.

There are loads of other examples though. From a focus on child-cancers as a consequence of radiation or chemical poisoning to the various controversies around jabs (i.e. MMR). There's also childhood obesity, the effects of new media, future-casting over climate change or pre-natal testing. Just glancing through the BBC news science section, two of the eight stories currently illustrated with a picture icon utilise photos of a child's face (one on genetic link to autism, the other on the risk of swine flu).

Is it simply a matter that sick children make for an emotive image, or are there some specific anxieties around the combination of children and science/ technology at work here? I guess it depends a lot from case to case, and lumping swine flu coverage in with the whole 'facebook gives you cancer' stuff is probably too blunt a comparison. Still, I heard a conference paper last summer which argued that most English-language science news was about food, and I think its interesting that similar points can be made an apparent obsession with children.

Its also worth noting that children are rarely the assumed audience of any of these stories.

April 21, 2009

Matt Whyman on children and technology

I recently interviewed the author Matt Whyman for the Write Away website. He's been a virtual agony uncle for AOL from their early days, and now writes teen fiction, including a series about the hacker Carl Hobbs. I asked him about his stand on children's use of technology and he had some very interesting things to say.
Here's a link to the pdf - http://www.writeaway.org.uk/images/stories/Interviews/matt_whyman2.pdf