Report – Opening Keynote

Posted on: Wednesday 04 July 2018 4:17am

Acclaimed children’s poet, broadcaster, columnist and former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen took to the Crucible stage for the opening keynote, to ask how children’s media can encourage creative and inquisitive thinking and safeguard children in the digital world.


  • Rosen expressed concerns that the education system teaches children only how to pass tests and minimises children’s ability to ask questions of the world around them.
  • He discussed how the digital media world is largely unregulated and can be a dangerous place for children.
  • He suggested that the children’s media industry needs to work together to find solutions and create safe spaces for children online.


Rio-Leanna, winner of CBBC’s ‘Got What It Takes’ and one of the 12 changemakers at this year’s conference, began the session with a passionate vocal performance, alongside talented multi-instrumentalist Sam Castle. Following their performance, Sam discussed his future plans to study Design Engineering at Imperial College, London and Rio-Leanna explained how her ambitions are to sell out arenas and inspire people to do the things that they love.

Sue Nott, chair of the CMC advisory committee, officially opened the 2018 Children’s Media Conference and introduced this year’s theme: ‘What’s Next?’ Her request to remember Peter Firmin, co-creator of beloved favourites ‘The Clangers’ and ‘Bagpuss’, who passed away this month, was met with rapturous applause by the audience who took to their feet.

Michael Rosen began by asking the audience to think of the striking image of Buster Keaton riding two cars at the same time, with one foot on each car. Keaton is the child we are all interested in – one car is school, the other is media.

He suggested that children’s media is a ‘safe place’, but we can only deal with some of the things that bother children. Rosen questioned if children’s media would discuss the US policy of separating migrant children from their families and homing them in cages. ‘I think we have to push hard to talk about these subjects,’ advocated Rosen. ‘Fiction helps children deal with the awful things going on.’

Rosen expressed concerns that education has become more about knowing the right answers to test papers, than learning through thoughtful discussion and questioning. Children no longer learn ‘what is earwax’ or ‘how to make soup.’ There is more focus on the core subjects, and less time for the arts. ‘Children only learn what could be turned into data, then the children become data,’ joked Rosen. He suggested that the idea of educating the whole child is being eliminated and the questioning mind is being minimised.

New media have invented mass lateral conversations, that pose a challenge for us here, as they happen mostly in adult forums, not constrained by same media rules as traditional children’s media. Digital media is mainly unlicensed. Children need online forums to question the world around them, but how can this be done whilst keeping them safe?

Rosen proposed that we need to do something different to safeguard work. He suggested content should have an approval stamp from producers, and websites should be lobbied to create a clear section, in the form of an online children’s channel or similar, where the content can exist. He suggested that the children’s media industry needs to move quickly to create its own democratic, self-regulating body, advocating that we should harness the collective muscle of the industry, and our knowledge of appropriateness, as children are our responsibility.

CMC Advisory Committee member Stuart Dredge produced this additional report on the Keynote.

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