Report – Kindfulness

Posted on: Thursday 06 July 2017 1:57pm by Gabrielle Smith

The full session is available here as a podcast:

A huge topic on the minds for kids’ media professionals today – how can we get kindness on the cards? Producers and media industry experts discuss the ways kindness, empathy and respect can make their mark on children’s media content


  • Teaching children to be resilient, respectful and kind to each other is more important than ever – TV and pro-social gaming is a way to do this
  • Imbuing content for kids with messages to bolster core emotional and life skills, at home and at school, is important
  • It’s crucial to not only raise tolerance and diversity issues to engage children, but the same also needs to happen with their parents/guardians.


Now, more than ever is the perfect time for kindness and activism to join hands. As Lana Castleman, Editor and Content Director from Kidscreen, reminds today’s session, we are living in tumultuous times, and this has had an impact on a generation of anxious children. But where to begin? What are kids (and of course parents) looking for to allay some of these fears?

Betsy Bozdech, from Common Sense Media, is getting to the heart of the matter – placing social and emotional skills at their content’s core. Things like teamwork, curiosity and perseverance seem to surface as firm favourites across the board. But other key character strengths such as gratitude, integrity and determination are embedded for the pre-school and young audiences with simple messages and age appropriate characters. Although, that being said, the older the audience the harder it gets. Evergreen shows like ‘Star Trek: Next Generation’ are hitting the right note. Betsy’s research includes comments from a parent and educator who reflects “each episode gives us so much to talk about, concepts of faith, prejudice and what it means to be human”.

In the UK, CBeebies is making a concerted effort for the pre-school demographic. With the launch of the hugely successful ‘Everyone’s Welcome’ campaign trail, diversity isn’t new to CBeebies. With drama such as the community based, ‘Appletree House’, to the exploration of autism and neurodiverse children through ‘Pablo’ – the channel consistently emphasises that children innately see differently, and perhaps it might be the adults that need the message reinforced.

Instead of values, let’s call them ‘treasures’, suggests David Hallam, Co-founder and Creative Director from Three Arrows Media. With a new production in the pipeline, ‘Treasure Champs’ includes animation, vox pop and retelling of stories from the six major faith traditions practised in Britain. What’s fantastic about the show too, is that because of the magazine element of the programme it’s cut-downable, with great potential for YouTube and other channels, David adds.

Working on pro-social digital gaming, Lucy Atkinson and Jon Mason discuss how digital role play games can help audiences to understand right and wrong, empathy and the world around them in a positive way. As Jon highlights, brands like ‘Taking the Next Step’ are much beloved by their viewers. However, with the help of fantastic writing and authentic, non-didactic scripts, there are marked improvements in the emotional intelligence of children who play the games too. Providing a ‘cyber sandbox’ if you will, games like these allow kids the opportunity to interact before they move on to experiment with social media.

So what can we do? Well, the message from the panel and audience seems to be clear. Let’s rally together after the bad news, and let’s try to be that little bit nicer. Be a ‘treasure champ’. After all, children need to learn to be kind to themselves, before they can be kind to other people.

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Gabrielle Smith

About the author

Gabrielle Smith

Northumbria University, Ph.D Student

Gabrielle Smith is a final-year Ph.D candidate at Northumbria University, Newcastle and is a film and television studies graduate from the universities of Aberdeen and Glasgow. Her current research explores the role of the British children’s television presenter. She has spoken at several international conferences, including the plenary panel of… Read more