A Research Report on Perspectives of Children and Childhood in an Early Childhood Education Setting

Table of Contents
Contents
Table of Contents 2
Methodology 3
Findings 5
Child is an adult trainee 5
Children as consumers and commodities 6
Popular culture 6
Influences 7
Historical Influence 7
Cultural Influences 8
Theories 8
Discussion 9
Conclusion 10
References 11
Appendix1. Description of Early Childhood Setting 13
Appendix 2: Description of Participants 13

Methodology
The participants were educators, parents, grandparents, and a few children aged 4 to 5 years old. It took around one hour to conduct the interviews and make observations.

Question 1 to:
Children: What are your favorite indoor and outdoor activities?
Educator: Can you compare the games you played as a child and the structured play experienced in classrooms today? State the impacts on the children today?
Grandparent: What plays did you play as a child, and can you compare the experience with that of children today?
Rationale: The question aimed to explore the perspectives of children and childhood that exist in society and how it is constantly changing between places, time, and culture (Waller, 2009). By comparing the ideas and views of play in historical and modern childhood, this reflects the numerous images of the social construct of childhood. Play is always fun and entertaining for children. However, it is changing due to demographic, economic, and technological factors (Howe, 1999).

Question 2 to:
Children: What kinds of festivals do you celebrate in the classroom and at home?
Educator: How do you promote cultural diversity in class, and how does it affect the children’s identity and development?
Parent: Do you support that children be taught cultural beliefs and values in their early childhood?
Rationale: The questions aimed to explore and enhance cultural knowledge through childhood experiences created by adults in their surroundings, shaping diversity (Sumsion et al., 2009). According to Waller (2009), cultural knowledge is a crucial feature of children’s development and promotes growth and wellbeing. By exposing children to different cultures in early childhood interventions, it provides a sense of security, identity, and belonging (DEEWR, 2009).

Question 3 to:
Children: Do you have access to digital media and technology (like the internet) both in school and at home?
Educator: Do you think technology should be used in early childhood education and does technology promote children’s learning?
Parents: How do you think technology is affecting children’s learning process?
Rationale: Through various research and studies, it has been proven that there are different perspectives on using technology with children and in childhood (Sandberg & Samuelsson, 2003). Some educators think it’s good to introduce technology in early childhood because it enhances children’s creativity and problem-solving skills under adequate supervision (Marsh, 2005). On the other hand, some parents have the fear that children are spending more time watching mobiles, movies, television, playing video games, and games on computers which is causing language delays, health issues, and low self-esteem, and they are becoming victims of sexism (Taylor, 2010).

Observation
The period was well-timed to avoid interrupting the regular routines of the setting. The children were gathered in a room where all other participants were waiting during the tea break. They were also provided with several craft activities for the children to explore or design their own masterpieces. The participants were briefed about the purpose of the study before proceeding to the question session. The questions to the interviewees focused on the perspective on children and childhood, views, and memories of childhood. Recording participant’s voices, views, and ideas made it possible to discover the constructs of childhood through various characteristics (Sorin & Galloway, 2006).
Rationale: To understand the social construct of children and childhood in the community of Australian early childhood education and care by interacting and observing educators, children, parents, and grandparents.

Findings
Child is an adult trainee
The child’s abilities in this construct are their exposure to what society feels they should become. There was a universal agreement by adults that the games played by children had changed significantly, and the perspective about childhood has also changed. The ideas about children and childhood differ between different segments and different professional groups in society. Sorin and Galloway (2006) describe children’s abilities to relate with adults and try acting like them. The educator emphasized the importance of listening to children, observing their actions, and intervening with appropriate measures. The actions indicate that children know what they want, though communication may affect their desires, and thus, it is appropriate that adults listen and treat them in a way that they become what is expected of them.
Children as consumers and commodities
Langer (2005) explored the relationship between children and the market place in Australia. She states claims that children and childhood are used to support various products, for instance, social media. Children are among the highest consumer of technological products. This could be proven by the students, most of whom said during the interviews that they could use technological products. On the contrary, children and childhood can also be seen in the perspective of commodities where parents have to spend significantly on their upbringing. In the past, children could participate in economic activities and contribute to a family’s income. Today, children are of high value to parents that parents have to pay for their schooling and needs.
Popular culture
Most adults supported the idea of being culturally sensitive and teaching children how to be culturally competent in society. The educators emphasized the importance of promoting cultural infusion in classrooms and insisted that the main discussion regarding the topic should be how teachers and parents could achieve the infusion. According to (Sumsion et al., 2009), culturally responsive education has many benefits. The benefits include influencing student’s learning styles, recognizing various modes of reflective learning, and even the importance of group collaboration. The literature seemed to be in tandem with what most educators suggested.
The educators reported that children have different styles of learning, and thus their teachers’ have to devise ways of accommodating all of them. One educator stated,” a child’s failure to respond to a question may be interpreted in different ways other than not knowing the answer.” It was evident from the research that a culturally insensitive approach to education can hinder a child’s learning. As a result, the child may develop feelings of resentment, isolation, and anxiety. According to Waller (2009), such feelings affect the relationship between teachers and students and thus may affect the learning process. Some of the ways the educators suggested that they use to promote cultural diversity in class included being aware of the learning characteristics of the children they served, embracing student’s cultural characteristics, and being flexible to adjust teaching strategies in classrooms to ensure students understood.

Influences
Historical Influence
Most variations were experienced in the meaning of childhood, the roles of children, and the various activities in which children engage in different historical periods and different cultures. For example, historical studies indicate that children participated in home chores and other simple works around the home and even in economic activities. In this case, the children are viewed from the perspective of wage laborers as they contributed to the survival of their families. One grandparent stated that children have grown to become “economically useless” but “emotionally priceless” as they give meaning to their parent’s lives. Today, parents look to their children for intimacy and not the source of economic security at old age. Parents also indicated that their educational competence measures children’s competence. One educator narrated that industrialization introduced schoolwork for children to prepare them as a viable labor force in the future. As a result, education became the criteria for measuring children’s abilities in life. It is for this reason that western society focuses on children on what children will become in the future and not what they are currently. As a result, society ignores the “childhood” state and focuses on the child as an adult. Such social constructs do not determine children’s experiences but set boundaries of what is expected of them.
Cultural Influences
The issue of technology was greatly contested with different people having very conflicting thoughts about the use of technology by children in childhood and how it affected their development. The increase in popularity of screen media has led to the production of video programs, gaming consoles, and apps, which are designed to develop skills of children including singing, language, counting, and other abilities that promote brain development (Marsh, 2005).
The educators said that exposing children to screen media was instrumental in developing the brain of the child and improving the child’s problem-solving abilities. The teachers indicated that infants and toddlers with regular access to screen media respond quickly to perceptual and sensory features such as movement, bright color, sound effects, pace, and music.
Unlike the educators who supported the idea of technology, parents and especially grandparents were divided on the issue. One grandparent believed that infants and toddlers learn words and skills more efficiently when a person teaches them. The study established that the learning difference occurred because children are inflexible learners, and thus the characters on a video content look differently from what they are used to in real environment (Sandberg & Samuelsson, 2003). As they grow and develop their language, cognition, and social awareness, their ability to relate the characters on the screen to the real world improves.
Theories
The concept of the social constructive theory was evident during the interviews and observations. One grandparent mentioned the activities that they engaged in during childhood, including performing house chores and engaging in economic activities at a tender age. She compared it with the life and the lives of children today, and it was evident that all things are constructions that keep on shifting. This relates to the postmodern theory, which suggests that life is a construction that depends on the contexts. The argument is in tandem with the information collected from the interviews. For instance, when resources were scarce, children had to be engaged in providing for the family. However, today’s context seems slightly comfortable, and thus children’s roles are focused on making them reliable adults in the future. According to Sorin and Galloway (2006), social constructivism states indicates that children in traditional culture are involved in determining the culture and environment they live in. The notion aligns with postmodernism, which shows that the perspectives of children change from one culture to another depending on the situation.

Discussion
The factors that contributed to the different perceptions of childhood included perception about the nature of human beings. Today parents’ attitudes have changed to looking to their children for intimacy, which has extended the childhood period. Many parents look at their children as adults in the making and thus focus on what they should learn today to become responsible adults. The aspect of childhood continues to change depending on many factors, including culture and time. Gittins (2008) acknowledges the many forms in which history comes and describes the perspectives of children and childhood in the traditional context where children were thought to be mini-adults. Currently, parents view children as trainee adults who deserve to be cared for and guided to become to succeed in adulthood.
The roles of children in society can also be likened to a market where children can either be consumers and thus, companies target them with products, especially technological items. On the contrary, children can be viewed as the commodity where parents spend resources in developing them. Langer (2005) suggests that companies see children as a market for company products and thus use them in adverts while parents view children as a choice by investing in their upbringing and education.
Based on the interviews, the educator’s view of children as adult trainees grows in popularity because of the current sociology of childhood. Educators are tasked with the responsibility of training children into their adulthood through the provision of education. Furthermore, the incorporation of technology in a child’s life seems essential, and thus, parents need to be informed of the benefits of technology to children and, therefore, should participate in increasing children’s access to technological aspects (Kennedy et al., 2012).
Conclusion
The study focused on the views of parents and educators and the actions of children, and it was evident that children are viewed as adult trainees. The study also indicated that childhood is socially constructed depending on the context, and it is conceptualized in different ways. Literature suggests that the factors that influence people’s perspectives on childhood include cultural, economic, and historical factors. The findings will be beneficial to both educators and parents and will help them understand that childhood is a social construct, and their actions will determine the construction significantly. They can apply the understanding to train children in a manner that will make the children competent in society.

References
Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). (2009). Belonging, Being and Becoming. The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Canberra, Australia: Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations.
Howe, J. (1999). Children and change. In Early childhood, family and society in Australia: A reassessment (pp. 3–8). Katoomba, NSW: Social Science Press.
Langer, B. (2005). Chapter 8: Children: The consumer generation. In M. Poole (Ed.), Family: Changing families, changing times (pp. 155–179). Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.
Marsh, J. (2005). Chapter 12: Digikids: Young children, popular culture and media. In N. Yelland (Ed.), Critical issues in early childhood education (pp. 181–196). Maidenhead, England: McGraw-Hill.
Sandberg, A., & Samuelsson, I. (2003). Preschool teachers’ play experiences then and now. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 5(1).
Smart, D., & Sanson, A. (2008). Do Australian children have more problems today than twenty years ago? Family Matters, 79, 50–57.
Sorin, R., & Galloway, G. (2006). Constructs of childhood: Constructs of self. Children Australia, 31(2), 12–21.
Sumsion, J., Cheeseman, S., Kennedy, A., Barnes, S., Harrison, L., & Stonehouse, A. (2009). Insider perspectives on developing belong, being and becoming. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 34(4), 4–13.
Taylor, A. (2010). Troubling childhood innocence: Reframing the debate over media sexualisation of children. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 35(1), 48–57.
Waller, T. (2009). Modern childhood: Contemporary theories and children’s lives. In T. Waller (Ed.), An introduction to early childhood: A multidisciplinary approach (pp. 2–15). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.
Woodrow, C. (1999). Revisiting images of the child in early childhood education: Reflections and considerations. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 24(4), 7–12.

Appendix1. Description of Early Childhood Setting
This report presents the service provided by a long day care centre in a remote area of a major city in Australia. The day care is operated by non for profit organization and currently managing 57 children with the help of 15 staffs who provides education and quality care of the children in various fields. The centre caters children from 6 weeks to 5 year olds and provides its operation for five days a week and 52 weeks a year. The community the centre provides is service to consist of people having mixed socioeconomic status and live a busy lifestyle. The community also consists of various races and nationalities.
Appendix 2: Description of Participants
The children interviewees were aged 4to 5 years. They were both boys and girls. Educators interviewed were young adults most of whom had Diplomas and Bachelor’s degrees in education and Children’s services. I selected those who had been in the industry for at least five years. The parents were middle aged too and seemed to have been born in the late 20th century. The grandparents came as guardians while others came to accompany the real parents. Most grandparents were born in mid 20th century.

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