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‘Why Adventurous Children Have Better Mental Health’

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A new research has observed that children who spend more time playing adventurously have lower symptoms of anxiety and depression and were happier over the first COVID-19 lockdown.
The study led by researchers in the University of Exeter and published in Child Psychiatry and Human Development in 2022 , comes at a time when today’s children have fewer opportunities for adventurous play out of sight of adults, such as climbing trees, riding bikes, jumping from high surfaces or playing somewhere they are out of adult sight. The study sought to test theories that adventurous play offers learning opportunities that help build resilience in children, thereby helping to prevent mental health problems.
The research team which was made up of Helen  Dodd, Rachel Nesbit and Lily FitzGibbon  surveyed nearly 2,500 parents of children aged 5-11 years. Parents completed questions  about their child’s play, their general mental health (pre COVID) and their mood during the first COVID -19.
The result was that, children who spend more time playing outside had fewer ‘’internalising problems ‘’, characterised as anxiety and depression. Those children were also more positive during the first lockdown.
The study also found out that the effect was more pronounced in children from lower income families than those growing up in higher income households.
Professor of Child Psychology at the University of Exeter, Helen Dodd, who led the study noted that, ‘’we are more concerned than ever about children’s mental health by ensuring they have plentiful opportunities for adventurous play. This is really positive because play is free, instinctive and rewarding for children, available for everyone and doesn’t require special skills. We now urgently need to invest in and protect natural space, well – designed parks and adventurous play grounds to support the mental health of our children,’’ she explained.
Also, Director of United Kingdom Impact At Save The Children, Dan Paskins, stated that “every child needs and deserves opportunities to play. This important research shows that this is even more vital to help children thrive after all they missed out on during the COVID -19 restrictions. More play means more happiness and less anxiety and depression.’’
Welcoming the findings, Chief Executive of Play Board  NI, Jacqueline O’Loughin, said,’’this research emphasises the importance of adventurous play.
Children and young people need freedom and opportunities to encounter challenge and risk in their everyday playful adventures. It is clear from the research findings that playing,taking risks and experiencing excitement outdoors make a positive contribution to children ‘s mental health and emotional well being. The reward of allowing children to self – regulate and manage challenge in their play are widespread and far- reaching.
Adventurous play helps children to build the resilience needed to cope with and manage stress in challenging circumstances,’’ she added.
Also, in a statement by United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), on how  play strengthens children’s mental  health, the body noted that, ‘’playful moments are essential in our little one’s emotional well being. Play is how young children learn and make sense of the  world around them. While they are having fun, they are working on critical parts of their development like building motor,cognitive,social and emotional skills. The power of play extends beyond early learning,it also plays a key role in building children’s mental health and parents too. Children who play regularly with their parents are less likely to develop anxiety, depression, aggression  and sleep problems,’’it stated.

By: Ibinabo Ogolo with Agency Report

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Need To Take Care Of Children Worldwide

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At the end of last year, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released a new report, ‘Preventing A Lost Decade: Urgent Action’ to reverse the devastating impact of COVID- 19 on children and young people. While it is easy for reports released in December to get lost in the end of the year rush, this report needs everyone’s attention. UNICEF called COVID-19 the greatest challenge to children in its 75-year history; and the situation is exacerbated by conflict, disaster, and climate change.
The facts tell a sobering story about the impact of the pandemic on children.
In less than two years, 100 million more children have fallen into poverty, a 10 percent, increase since 2019.
In 2020, over 23 million children missed out on essential vaccines.
50 million children suffer from wasting, the most life-threatening form of malnutrition, and this could increase by 9 million by 2022
At its peak in March 2020, 1.6 billion children were facing school closure.
Behind every one of these numbers are real stories: young children were left behind as preschool closed and food lines grew. School age children, particularly those with the most to gain, had limited access to remote learning. Teens suffered from social isolation and lack of mental health supports, and growing demands for early marriage. Parents tried their best to keep it all going; yet too often without the financial and social resources they needed. And the unpredictability of everyday life brought stress that seemed almost impossible to bear.
Fortunately, many communities around the world rallied: volunteers delivered food, distributed protective equipment and set up new hygiene facilities, and teachers worked to connect children with resources at home. We were all inspired by stories of people working for change, from health care workers to childcare providers, from youth to seniors.
Yet the challenges facing children were alarming even before COVID-19 became a household word. Approximately, one billion children, nearly half of the world’s children live in countries that are at an “extremely high risk” from the impacts of climate change and more and more children are forcibly displaced, all too often from conflict that could have been and should have been avoided.
Clearly, those in positions of power need to make investing in children, families, and communities a priority this year and in the years ahead. This is particularly true for U.S Foreign Assistance. Building on earlier work, in June of 2019, the U.S. launched Advancing Protection and Care for Children in Adversity: A United States Government Strategy for International Assistance (2019-23). This important document outlines a strategy for investing in the world’s most vulnerable children. In 2020 Congress passed the Global Child Thrive Act, providing additional direction for U.S. Government to invest in early childhood development. These are both important steps; now we all have to assure that they receive the attention and resources that this movement deserves.
The UNICEF report outlines an urgent agenda for action for children, including recommendations to invest in social protection, health, and education as well as building resilience to better prevent, respond to and protect children. Government, business and civil society and the public need to work together. But as in any crises, each individual action makes a difference. We can not wait for someone else to step forward with a solution. Each of us must ask: What can I do to help a neighbour, work in my community, build awareness, provide another voice, help empower others? What else can we do to integrate these issues into every field of study: from health to education, from diplomacy to economic development, from environmental studies to urban planning and design?
In their powerful new book, The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times, Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams with Gail Hudson, addressed an important question-How do we stay hopeful when everything seems hopeless? What is so uplifting about this story is that it draws a clear link between hope and action. It seems to be telling us that, while important, it is not the resilience of nature or the human intellect alone that matter, but also our spirit and belief in the possibilities and the power to take action. I can’t think of a better year to start.
Lombardi is an international expert on early childhood development and Senior Fellow at the Collaborative on Global Children’s Issues, Georgetown University.

Joan Lombardi

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Effect Of Pornography On Children’s Health

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One social vice bedevilling children and adolescents in the world currently is the issue of addiction to pornography. It has assumed a frightening dimension as the recent upsurge in rape and other sexual assault cases are remotely linked to the unlimited access to pornographic materials to impressionable minds.
Pornography is the representation of sexual behaviour in books, pictures, status, films and other media that is intended to cause sexual excitement.
Exposure to pornography harms children and youth by normalising sexual violence and creating unrealistic behaviours.
Consequently, child pornography is on the increase globally and this is a real problem. It is a ‘big deal’ and has significant consequences on the future of children.This problem has increased because of the use of the internet and smart phones.
According to statistics, in 2008, the internet marketing firm, Hitwise, reported that globally, 40,634 web sites distributed pornographic materials. A report according to PornHub in 2020, the word “teen” topped the pornography mega site’s search terms for over six years running, making child pornography one of the fastest growing online businesses with over 55 percent of victims just 10 years old or younger.
In 2010,survey of English students between 14 and 16 years old, almost one third claimed that their first exposure to internet pornography was at 10 years. In a 2011 survey, 31 percent of adolescent boys admitted visiting websites that are intended as Adults only.
In 2012, Australian study of pornography users found out that the first exposure of children was between the ages of 11 and 13 years old. Also, in 2017, Australian Institute of Family Studies in a research by Antonia Quasars and Alissar El- Murr, revealed that nearly half of children  between the ages of 9 and 16 experience regular exposure to sexual images. Moreso, young males are more likely than females to deliberately seek out pornography and they do so frequently.
In Nigeria, internet pornography has continued to grow.Nigeria is a signatory to several international and legal instruments in the involvement of children in pornography. Nigeria has no national laws prohibiting pornography,but, the Cybercrime (Prohibiting Prevention) Act in 2015 only bans child pornography.
Currently, Nigeria has the highest number of internet pornography viewers of any country in Africa.According to reports, Nigerian youths secretly watch pornography and have become addicted largely unknowingly.  Available  statistics show that among Nigerian children, primary consumers of pornography are boys between the ages of 12 and 17 which might be due to the children’s reliance on pornography as primary source of sex education.
According to a counsellor, Justina Amalokwu, “for decades, Nigerian parents have become reluctant to talk about sex with their children . Maybe they are religious or uncomfortable about the topic . This reluctance has pushed many children to turn to the internet for lectures and demonstration on sex. When they go online, they easily get to porn sites”.
Recently, the United Nations International  Children’s Educational Fund (UNICEF) in a statement, stated that it was alarmed by the massive quantity of pornography available online, including graphic and extreme content that is easily accessible to children of all ages. It also stated that efforts to regulate content and restrict children’s access to pornography have not kept pace with technological shifts.
UNICEF however, supports the efforts of government round the world to ensure that children and young people are protected from harmful content in accordance with the convention on the rights of the child and the authoritative guidance from the committee in the Rights of the child .
The American College of Paediatricians on their part has urged healthcare professionals worldwide to communicate the risk of pornography use to parents and their families and to offer resources both to protect their children from viewing pornography and to treat individuals suffering from its negative effects.It said that children under 12 years old, who have viewed pornography, are statistically more likely to sexually assault their peers and these children are at the risk of a broad range of maladaptive behaviours and psychopathology.
A recent primary research article in JAMA psychiatry, shows that pornography consumption is associated with decreased left striatua activation and lower functional connectivity  to the prefrontal cortex. Also,smaller grey matter volume in the viewers can cause down regulation of the brain’s response to erotic material. These neural changes in the brains of pornography users are similar to changes seen in the brains of individuals addicted to cocaine, alcohol and methamphetamines. These cause mental disturbance and unrest for the young school age child .
The Association  advises that since the internet is the primary medium for pornography exposure, computers should be equipped with internet filtering and monitory software to reduce exposure. “There are variety of parental controls and filtering systems available to parents and some current software vendors offering filtering and monitoring of smart phones which are now the primary technology used by adolescents to access the internet.  Also, there are software services which offer the ability to create accountability partnerships so as to increase the success of breaking free from pornography addiction”, the Association noted.
A clinical/school  social worker, Danny Huerta, over the years observed that pornography  leaves children incredibly stunted in their growth and maturity and enslaved to pleasure and consumption, depriving them of healthy sexuality for their marriages for society and for generations to come. He added that pornography triggers the body production of oxytocin, which is the bonding activity between a husband and wife. The more it is used outside the design, the more confused and washed down the ability to bond.
He urged parents to help their children learn how and why to guard their hearts and minds which are their springs of life and to help them see that there is more to life than sex.
Another Child counsellor, Jennifer Michelle Greenberg, said that the consequences of pornography can be disastrous.
“Porn can stay in your head forever. It is very hard to get these images out of your head. They are burned in your memory  like a brand.” She adivised parents to protect their children by teaching them about sex before someone else does.
“According to her, “make it clear to them that if they have any questions or concerns, they can come to you and you won’t be upset. Tell your children that photos and videos of sex and nudity are wrong and teach them  what God’s word says about their bodies”.
“Be aware that many children encounter pornography at the home of a friend or neighbour. Monitor your children online activities and texts. Know what websites they visit, who they are talking to and what their passwords are. Be aware of the images they are taking of themselves and sharing ,”she said.
There is no doubt that exposure of children and adolescents to pornographic materials is harmful to their development and societal growth. Victims of early exposure to such things often end up addicted to it and they tend to want to have multiple sex partners. They are encouraged by what they see to engage in unsafe sexual practices.
It is important that parents give their children moral and sex education from early stages of life. Also, education about internet safety is key in achieving parental control.
Government also has a greater role to play by enforcing laws concerning exposure of children to pornographic materials. It is often a common sight of children and adolescents watching rated videos shown by video rental shops across Nigeria.
Furthermore, introduction of moral and sex education in the curriculum of primary and secondary schools will go a long way in curbing this unhealthy trend and save our youths and the society at large from the menace of pornography.

Ibinabo Ogolo

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Youths’ Role In NationBuilding

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Nation building is a dynamic process involving all segments of the locality, including the often-overlooked and undermined youth population. Youths represent a vast and often untapped resource for immediate and long-term community development efforts. They also provide an invaluable resource for the progress of any society as well as its development. As youths are brought into and connected with national issues and programmes (they have often times been ignored/excluded), they can participate actively and contribute to decision-making at multiple levels.
As youths are engaged in more sustained positive relationships with adults, other youths and national development programmes, apart from realising that they are valued citizens of their nations, such collaborations and participation may lead to skill enhancement, empowerments and confidence-building traits, which will help prepare them for active interest and involvement in nation-building (even in future).
The total population of those between the ages of 15 and 34 was about 30 million in the 1991 census, equivalent to one of every three Nigerians. It was projected that by the year 2000, the total population of this category of young person’s would be about 38 million (National Youth Policy, 2001). In 2006, a nation-wide population and housing census was conducted to update the records. It indicated that the youth profile in the Nigerian population has tremendously improved to 53 million (NPC, 2006).
Apart from the issue of numerical strength, global trend is towards emphasising the primacy of youth in the developmental process, with deliberate efforts by national governments to create conditions that will encourage youth to utilise their energies and resourcefulness for growth and sustainable development of their nations. It was in the light of this development that the Nigerian Youth Organisations in their memorandum to the last National Political Reform Conference maintained that:
“Nigerian youth must have a voice and must be given a greater say to contribute in the way he is governed and allowed to play greater role in leadership and governance so that at all times, he is properly equipped to assume the mantle of leadership which inevitably must come someday. (National Political Reform Conference 2005:15).
However, the prevailing conditions in much of the developing nations, especially Nigeria, have seriously extenuated the potentials of the youth as agents of social change. These challenges range from the economic and social to the cultural. The treacherous triangle of poverty, illiteracy and unemployment in which the bulk of Nigerian youths are currently trapped, has severally challenged their sensibility and has in the long run given rise to what sociologists term as attitudes of fatalism, resignation and acceptance of the situation (Heralambos, 2001). The persistence of these social problems has created an environment where youth are cheaply available for manipulation by self-seeking politicians. Poverty, illiteracy and unemployment are interrelated conditions that generate human needs and therefore constitute a state of deprivation.
As the youth continue to remain in this state, there is pent-up emotions and untapped energies. They provide cheap labour to execute the design of political gladiators and ethnic champions. In an apparent indictment of the Nigerian politicians, Togbolo (2006) observed, “they take advantage of the poverty-stricken nature of the country to exploit the people; politicians are fond of using the youth restive nature as a political strategy to have their way.”
According to Gribble (2010), “more than half of the world’s population under the age of 25 (between ages 15 and 24) are in greatest need of empowerment, those who are younger will quickly come of age and share these same needs. This segment of the population (15 to 24) is expected to continue growing faster than other segments for at least 20 more years” (Gribble, 2010). With the swelling wave of young people, access, empowerment and their engagement in nation-building becomes critical if they are to contribute effectively.
Uhunmwuangbo and Oghator (2013) suggested two (2) major motivations which have brought the converge of youth (young persons) into the policy agenda of national governments, thus fascinate and prioritised youth inclusion to the building process of any nation. According to them, the first is the global process of democratisation, beginning in Southern Europe, extending to Latin America, Asia and Africa, and more recently to Eastern Europe (Almond, 2004).
The second is the phenomenon of globalisation that has seriously challenged the capacity of nation-state to govern and which, according to Heady, et al, embodied a transformation of the spatial organisation of social relations and transaction (Heady, 1979). The combined effects of these global trends have confronted and dismantled authoritarian regimes in a decisive way, and at the same time rekindled the spirit of civil society in the political process (Suleiman, 2006).
The youth as an important component of the civil society is in the process of self rediscovery in an era characterised by the intense movement of the social forces of democratisation and globalisation. As they interact with other actors in the social system, the youth express their interest and needs, they relate with relevant political institutions and political processes to articulate their views and promote shared interest (Suleiman, 2006).
The role of education positioning and providing youth with access to effective engagement in national development which is a way of incorporating them in the decision-making process of the nation’s governance, nation-building activities where they are welcomed, with accurate and comprehensive information which will empower them to make healthy decisions.
There is no how the untapped capacities in youth can be tapped and utilised with an all-inclusive, participatory and synergy approach; thus, a suggestive dimension for involving the youth in nation-building. Youth participation, according to Cornwall (2010), refers to the involvement of youth in responsible, challenging action that meets genuine needs, with opportunities for planning and/or decision-making affecting others in an activity whose impact or consequence is extended to others. i.e outside or beyond the youth participants themselves. Rajani (1999) notes that, “it is only through participation that youth develop skills, build competencies, form aspirations, gain confidence and attain valuable resources.” This shows that youth participation therefore is a product and strategy of sustainable human development.
Youth comprise nearly 30 per cent of the world’s population. These large members of young people are an opportunity; an investment to their country. Youth participation in nation-building programmes/activities therefore is to: Strengthen young people’s abilities to meet their own subsistence needs; prevent and reduce vulnerabilities to economic, political and socially unstable environemnts; promote owership and sustainability of change interventions; help gain entry into target communites and build up trust and social cpaital.
Nigeria with over 140 million people and over fifty percent of youths cannot afford to lock out the youths if they must compete politically, technologically and scientifically in order to align itself with the sustainable development in Africa in particular and the developed world in general. Nigeria can build a strong and viable nation if and only if there is an existence of common values, beliefs, attitudes, effective leadership and a will to live together as a nation. Such transformations must allow every group (especially the youth population) to participate in the economic, political and the social spheres of the nation.
The following recommendations are discernibly based on the foregoing: Youth should be given the opportunity to develop their capacities thrugh balanced education and exposure. Skills acquisition and entrepreneurship will help reduce idleness among youths and keep them from being involved in crime and other activities that are counterproductive in nation-building. Youths should be made relevant and involved in leadership at different levels of government. We must moderate our demands on our youths and as well condition their behavior in line with our cultural values.
The youth of today must not fail this nation.
Concluded

Immanmuel Rohi
Rohi is a member of the Nigerian Youth Volunteers, Rivers State.

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