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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.


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