World Vision study reveals children lead the way on empathy
25 July 2022 at 11:34 am
The study also aims to bring global famine back into the national conversation.
A new study by World Vision reveals Australian children are most concerned about people going hungry, people being sick and war.
The survey of 1000 children aged between six and 16, and their parents, also found that 80 per cent of parents believe their children are more empathetic than adults.
The aim of the study is to bring childhood famine to the front of the nation’s collective mind, and as part of the research the children took part in a social experiment to illustrate that one in three people goes hungry every day.
Children were put into groups of three and all but one was given a slice of pizza. The children in the experiment consistently offered to share their pizza with the third child.
What can we learn from kids?
As part of the research, children were asked what they would do when faced with a friend who came to school without any lunch. Children were most likely to share their lunch (71 per cent), then tell a teacher (19 per cent), give them money (8 per cent) or tell their parents (2 per cent).
World Vision head of church school and youth engagement Noddy Sharma told Pro Bono News that children were picking up news about global crises through social media, TV news and even through schoolyard chatter.
“It’s just always around them,” he said.
But according to the survey, rather than negatively impacting their mental health, the children respond by wanting to help, Sharma explained.
“They actually feel like there is something that they really want to do and lean into, which is really encouraging to see,” he said.
The charity hopes those feelings will develop into meaningful actions such as fundraising activities as the children grow older.
The results are promising, Sharma said, in showing that kids are demonstrating kindness, love and empathy from a young age.
“We need to… access our inner child [in adulthood], take the lead from our own kids who are showing this empathy and wanting to do something about it and follow that lead, because as we do that, we foster this incredible sense of kindness, of love, of empathy as a nation.”
Stopping famine in its tracks
Sharma said it would be great to see a new generation focused on stamping out hunger.
In previous years, he said, the 40 Hour Famine has been “almost like a rite of passage” for Australian youngsters.
COVID-19, climate change and conflict around the world have taken famine to a new level, with the world in the midst of a fresh hunger crisis.
“The stats coming out… say between 45 and 49 million people are on the brink of starvation right now, and more than half of them are children,” Sharma explained.
“We need to pick up this conversation again. It has kind of dropped off the radar a little bit, and I think as a nation, it’s deeply concerning. It’s at the point now where, well, we need to do something about it.”
But with collective action, hunger could potentially be eradicated, he said.
“I think that is a really cool thing for us to be focusing on as a nation,” Sharma said.
He said donations, whether at an individual or business level, “make a huge difference” in alleviating malnutrition and dealing with root issues like sanitation, water and education.
For those who can’t donate, Sharma said advocating to government MPs could also help draw attention to the global hunger crisis and encourage governments to take action.