It has finally arrived! Today was the first day of The Children’s Media Conference in Sheffield, London. This afternoon, I had the privilege to attend a workshop titled “Collaborating with Kids,” and I learned a great deal about the relationship between children’s media content creators and the kids that serve as their primary target audience.
Although the workshop initially started as a large group, we all eventually split up into five smaller teams with different speakers at each station. I participated in two groups titled “Build Your Own Adventure,” and “Superhero Co-Creation.” In the “Adventure” group, Tom Bowtell and Toby Peach from Coney helped us create a storyboard for a mock educational performance where actors venture into school classrooms and provide the students with an alternate reality to assist in their teacher’s lesson plans. I worked with five “kid experts” that joined the team to give their input on our creations. Additionally, in the “Superhero” group, other media professionals and I observed while Emma Worrollo and Laura Pamment from The Pineapple Lounge, helped another group of Sheffield children towards the goal of creating a new superhero. An animator was present to assist in bringing the kid’s imaginations to life.
While I thoroughly enjoyed participating in both groups, the most memorable part of the workshop was the conversations with the children in the “Superhero Co-Creation” section. More specifically, I was blown away by the complexity of the children’s thought processes when it came time to discuss their dreams and worries in life. Many of the kids dreamed of “being” something. They mentioned that they wanted to have careers as an athlete, a singer, magician, or musician. And when it came time to discuss their worries, most of their concerns were quite sophisticated. One child mentioned they were worried they would attend a “bad university,” and another feared that they would never have any kids. I couldn’t believe that these issues where even remotely on the mind of an eight year old. All in all, although the dreams and worries of the children were rightfully legitimate, I question what those points say about the society that children are raised in in 2014. Has their environment become so serious that these were the first things that came to mind when someone prompted them to brainstorm anything in the world that they feared? I would expect an eight year old to say they were afraid of spiders, and not the possible end of their family line.
In conclusion, today’s experience opened my eyes to how intelligent today’s children are. Their opinions are valid and they truly are the experts when it comes to critiquing the content that creators bring to the table. Whether it’s creating a superhero or assisting in organizing a storyboard, it is essential that professionals in children’s media work together with their target audience to create a product that is appropriately engaging and entertaining.