17 Apr 2008

Pressures of the modern world: BBC/Open University co-production of Child of Our Time returns

Child Of Our Time returns to BBC One

Child Of Our Time returns to BBC One

TX: BBC ONE, 8pm, Wednesday 7th, 14th and 21st May 2008

How do children cope with today’s fast-paced and stressful society? Child of Our Time, co-produced by The Open University and the BBC, returns to BBC One in May, continuing the ‘journey of a lifetime’ as it explores the lives of today’s children.

The project has followed 25 children from their birth in 1999/2000 as they journey towards adulthood. Leading fertility scientist Professor Robert Winston returns to present the series and by using observational filming and scientific tests, the team investigates what influences and shapes our identities during childhood.

Professor David Messer and John Oates are the nominated academics for The Open University, providing specialist guidance for the series and helping to develop the linked website. Professor Messer said: “The Open University input helps the series to bring to life ideas from modern research through the Child of Our Time children and their families. Seeing the differences and similarities in the children's development over the last seven years shows how our genes and our environments together influence our personalities and how we can learn to cope with life's challenges.”

The series on BBC One will focus on:
- Divide of the Sexes: how children’s ideas about gender roles and images are affected by the media;
- Age of Stress: the stresses that children can face in an increasingly high-speed world
- 24 Hours: the wellbeing of children in today’s society.

Dr Tessa Livingstone, Executive Producer for the BBC said: “This is a very exciting series with extraordinary interviews from our children on celebrities, exam stress and happiness, and from their parents about the ups and downs of family life in the 21st century. This year we observed our children continuously for 48 hours to find out what they really do with their time. How much TV do they watch? Do they have any time for play? And what do their parents talk to them about? Family life, it turns out, is not what you think it is. The series starts with Divide of the Sexes, a programme that will make you laugh and surprise you, followed by The Age of Stress and 24 Hours, which asks ´has childhood really been cancelled?´”

The issues raised will also be examined in closer detail by experts in the field of childhood in a separate televised debate, which will make a fourth programme in the series. This programme will use the unique 24 Hours footage to examine modern childhood. It will be screened on BBC FOUR on Thursday, 5th June.

Family stress is being explored further in a research project which Open University academics are conducting, linked to the series. The survey on the open2.net website focuses on the stress points in everyday family life, with questionnaires for parents and children to complete.

Developmental psychologist John Oates is co-ordinating the survey and said: “The open2.net website offers a wealth of materials on aspects of child development for those interested in finding out more. Part of it has been developed with support from the British Psychological Society and there are essays by experts on child development, video clips, download activities and a number of online surveys for children and adults to complete.”

Programme One: Divide of the Sexes
Children are under more pressures relating to their gender than ever before. How do girls respond to the pressure to be thin? What happens when girls and boys have to make small talk?

This programme follows Nathan, Rhianna, Helena, Megan and Tyrese to see how their ideas about gender affect their behaviour.

Programme Two: The Age of Stress
It’s easy to romanticise childhood as an age of carefree happiness but for some the reality is very different. Children are taking their first steps into a high-speed society. Does the stress of living in the modern world affect children’s behaviour and wellbeing?

This programme follows Eve, Rubin, Rebecca, Taliesin, Alex and Ivo to explore the things that cause them stress, and what they do to feel better.

Programme Three: 24 Hours
Did children growing up without computer games and TV have a happier home life? Have children lost freedom and responsibility?

Last year’s UNICEF report on children’s wellbeing in developed countries put the UK at the bottom. This programme explores what things impact on the childrens' wellbeing and welfare. The programme investigates why the UK was given this low rating by UNICEF.

William, Ethan, Charlotte, Charlie, Jamie and Parys take part in this programme, with the team exploring what their lifestyle is like, and what affects their feelings of well-being.

Editor’s Notes
Child of Our Time is a co-production between The Open University and the BBC.
The Executive Producer for the BBC is Tessa Livingstone.
The Commissioning Executive for the Open University is Emma De’Ath.
The Open University nominated academics for the series are John Oates and Professor David Messer.

The Open University and BBC have been in partnership for more than 30 years, providing educational programming to a mass audience. In recent times this partnership has evolved from late night programming for delivering courses to peak time programmes with a broad appeal to encourage wider participation in learning.

All broadcast information is correct at time of issue.

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