Empowering the next generation: Key learnings from the MRS Kids and Youth Conference 2022

23rd March 2022 11:45

Written by Associate Director, Helen Menzies

I recently had the pleasure of attending the latest MRS Kids and Youth Research Conference.  Having specialised in children’s research for a number of years, this conference is always a highlight for me – it reinvigorates my thinking, keeps me in touch with the latest trends and reinforces the importance of research with children and young people.

Here at DJS we run regular ‘Knowledge Share’ sessions.  Anyone who attends a conference takes the time to share key insights from the day with other people across the business.  My colleague Sarah and I needed to condense a jam-packed day of kids and youth research content into just one hour.  This meant we had to be selective about what we shared but it gave us a great opportunity to step back and really think about our key take-outs from the day.

Here are some of the insights that really stood out for me:

  • Gen Alpha (i.e. kids born since around 2010) are growing up with more family attention, choices and resources compared to their parents.  What’s more, their parents are more likely to say ‘yes’ compared to those of previous generations (as a parent of a Gen Alpha myself, I’m pretty sure he gets away with more than I did at his age!).  This may sound like they are going to grow up spoilt and selfish, but actually the conference highlighted how kind, caring and globally conscious children and young people can be.
  • Through their exposure to YouTube and/or social media, children and young people are more aware than ever before of current affairs – both here in the UK and around the world.  Reinforcing some research we have carried out at DJS, young people really care about the environment and sustainability – they want to find ways that they can feel empowered to make a difference.
  • Parents can often feel worried and guilty about screen time, but the positive impact of gaming was highlighted in a couple of the presentations.  Video games reportedly helped young people to feel happier, less anxious and less lonely during lockdown.
  • In a presentation about LEGO Life, we heard how the online game is a safe place where kids spontaneously talked about COVID, Black Lives Matter and cyber bullying.  LEGO had witnessed a shift during the pandemic from kids simply wanting to have fun to wanting to feel part of something bigger, to make a positive impact.
  • Finally, in terms of methodologies – simplicity is key.  Don’t overload your discussion guide or overwhelm kids with too many tasks.  Let them talk, go off topic, wander into another room and go with them – enter their world and you’ll be rewarded.

A day in the life...

I’ve been conducting research with kids for over 10 years.  I’ve had lots of fun testing TV shows and games with young children and explored important topics such as climate change and mental health with teenagers.  Research with children is a specialist skill and I appreciate it’s not for everyone. You must be willing to sit on the floor with them, listen to jokes about poo and often get asked some pretty personal questions, but I love it!  Kids are honest, fun and creative – which is exactly how I like my research to be.

If you’d like to find out more about research with children and young people you can send Helen an email here and she'll get in touch!

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