ItemChildLinks Issue 3: Digital Childhood(Barnardos, 2014) BarnardosOne of the defining features of contemporary childhood in many societies is that children grow up in a world where digital technologies are prominent and taken for granted. There is no doubt that interactive digital technologies have become much more widespread and accessible to children from an early age, influencing children's play, interaction and even identities. A major question is whether these new influences really shape new childhood, or they represent only new ways of satisfying children's unchanging psychological and social needs. Research published in December 2014 by the National Literacy Trust in the UK found that 91.7% of children aged 3 to 5 have access to touchscreen technology at home, and access to such technology in early years setting has doubled since 2013. This use of technology brings with it many benefits but also challenges. In this issue of ChildLinks, Debra Harwood from Brock University, Canada looks at how children are accessing and using technology and examines the learning benefits. She also looks at the critical role of parents and educators in framing digital play, which appears key to insuring the quality of children’s interactions within digital worlds. The LITtLE (Linking Innovative Technology to Learning in the Early Years) research project, conducted by a team of early childhood researchers in IT Sligo, also looks at the new smart play opportunities for today’s children and if/how these are incorporated into early years pedagogy. Early Childhood Ireland surveyed 72 early childhood educators across private and community, sessional and full day care settings to explore the current role of technology in their everyday practice in an effort to explore how early childhood educators view and use technology within the curriculum. Issues raised include educator’s confidence and competence; the availability and use of technology in early childhood settings; the beliefs and rationale for technology; and how it impacts on children’s learning and development, health and well-being, and play and creativity. Malin Nilsen of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden discusses a recently conducted research study, the aim of which was to examine what kind of activities evolve when children and teachers in a Swedish preschool used tablet computers. The study also focused on what kind of learning was made possible and how the children and teachers participated in these activities. As children get older the challenges associated with technology increase as they access more and more content and methods of communicating away from adult supervision. Barnardos and St. Nicholas Montessori College look at the issues around social media and how they impact on children today. ItemChildLinks Issue 2: Parental Mental Health(Barnardos, 2014) BarnardosIn recent years, pressures on parents have increased, with austerity budgets cutting child support payments and increasing costs. Barnardos staff are reporting that poor mental health among parents is increasing in prevalence. They are also finding that when a parent experiences a mental health difficulty and they are not adequately supported or are receiving inappropriate treatment, their children can be affected. The slow roll out of A Vision for Change, the Government’s 2006 strategy for mental health services, is seriously affecting the recovery of many adults and children experiencing poor mental health. In this issue of ChildLinks, Barnardos advocates for supporting families who are facing mental health issues in a holistic manner, where the needs of each family member are identified and supported, and gives recommendations for adopting such an approach. Barnardos project leader, Robert Dunne, outlines the work in Barnardos projects supporting children and families impacted by mental health difficulties. Mary Donaghy shares information about the Think Family project in Northern Ireland, which focuses on improving collaborative working and enhancing understanding of multi-disciplinary roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders working across mental health and children’s services. Personal experiences regarding mental health issues in families highlight the challenges faced. Gina Delaney describes the isolation and confusion she felt as a child when she was excluded from discussions and decisions about mental health issues in her family. Fiona Kennedy then shares her own personal experiences of mental health issues and its impact on her family. The stigma that exists around mental health issues can prevent people from seeking the help and support they need. See Change, Ireland’s national programme to change minds about mental health problems, recognises that real change – in terms of attitudes to mental health problems – happens at local and community level. Sorcha Lowry, Campaign Manager with See Change, explains how the organisation spreads the message among local communities, membership organisations and representative bodies. It is not possible to generalise the effects of parental mental health difficulties on families as it can depend on the severity and duration of the difficulty. But the absence of supports for both parents and children can compromise the child’s ability to cope. This can result in children’s social and emotional development and their educational attainment being adversely affected. Often parents will put their children first, even if they are feeling under severe strain. They may also have a concern that asking for help could lead to questions being raised about their parenting capacity. Parents experiencing mental health difficulties must be supported in a sympathetic manner which takes into consideration these additional stresses they are carrying. ItemChildLinks Issue 1: Children's Health(Barnardos, 2014) BarnardosIn Budget 2014, the Government announced that it would be introducing free GP cards for under-sixes, a welcome first step that will alleviate the pressure on many parents of having to choose between paying a bill or putting food on the table and paying for a GP visit for their sick child. In this issue of ChildLinks, Barnardos examines the role of good health in childhood as fundamental to a child’s positive development and also an important indicator of well-being in later life. Access to healthcare, therefore, while being a core human right for any of us, is all the more important for our children, not just because of children’s often immediate and pressing need, but because access to quality healthcare can ensure every child in Ireland is given the best start in life. Over recent years a wealth of information on all aspects of the lives of children and young people has been made available through the Growing Up in Ireland study. The study looks at the physical health of young children in Ireland, identifying the key factors which most help or hinder their development and examining their progress and well-being at critical periods from birth to adulthood. As a nation we have made a number of recent advances in terms of health and health care, however, there are still a number of ongoing threats to our children’s health and well-being. The Cork Children’s Lifestyle Study assesses the prevalence of overweight and obesity in Irish children, explores factors associated with childhood overweight and obesity, and assesses the average salt intake and distribution of blood pressure in children in Ireland. The Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity study assesses indices of health and fitness among children and analyses information on the factors influencing physical activity, physical education and sport participation levels of children in Ireland. The information collected has provided guidance to the development of policy in the areas of health, sport, education, transport and the environment, all of which have important roles to play in getting Irish children more active more often. Mary Roche from Child Health and Screening in the HSE looks at unintentional injuries to children and injury prevention in an Irish and International context and discusses current research, policy and practice initiatives in Ireland. The final two articles in this issue look at health promotion in early years care and education, a sector ideally positioned to target interventions from infancy to preschool.