The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were on hand in Manchester today for the Children’s Global Media Summit. The event started yesterday and is expected to go through tomorrow, featuring a host of speakers, panels and events focused on the role and impact of media on children, including the future of programming and its role in education, mental health and changing technology. Three guesses on which topic William, who delivered a keynote speech, tackled.
The summit, which began in 1995, is held every three years and this is the first year that its content has been curated by BBC. Its last showing in 2014 was held in Kuala Lumpur, while London also hosted it back in 1998.
William’s address was naturally focused on children’s mental health and the role of media, particularly social media. I thought the speech was quite good and I’ve included the full text below. I think the themes on which he speaks – not quite knowing how to balance the necessity of technology in our lives, not to mention its ease, with the fact that it can have a negative impact on childhood development – are likely relevant for many. I think, too, his point that the generation of parents with young children today are also in the position of having to make the rules up as they go a bit is an important consideration. I’m always a fan of when William and Kate speak to issues with which they have real world experience because it enhances the strength of their advocacy and this is one of those times. I’m glad they attended and well done, William.
But here’s the thing – childhood development is not William’s issue. It’s Kate’s. Yes, William has dug in on cyber-bullying recently, but this felt more about parenting and childhood development. I feel like this could have been her speech and moment to shine. In my opinion, at least – I’d love to hear what others think.
For those that read last week’s post on Kate’s engagement at the primary school you may remember a rather robust defense of Kate’s nervousness about public speaking. I still stand by that and will continue to cut her slack when she relies on note cards or appears over-prepared, nervous or stilted. But I can’t make that argument if she doesn’t speak in the first place! I don’t have a problem with William carrying the majority of the speech-giving weight in general and I don’t have a problem with the fact that Kate has trouble in this arena, but I still feel like this was an issue in which she could have waded.
Anyway, back to lighter fare. William and Kate attended a forum hosted by the BBC to see how they run interactive workshops. “Young people” are given the opportunity to weigh in on children’s programming.
They then participated in another forum with primary school children, who spoke about the impact the consumption of media has on them. In theory, this addressed the effect it may have on their mental health and development, but I’m going to take a shot in the dark and say most of those direct lines were drawn by the adults listening to their responses.
The couple then split up, with William separately attending a discussion on cyber-bullying, while Kate listed in on a “Sesame Workshop,” which offers some insight into how programming is decided for Sesame Street.
It was after this that William delivered his speech – text at the end.
In one light-hearted moment a member of the public outside shouted, “Hi, Prince Harry!” and William responded, “I’m not a ginger!”
We also learned that William and Kate recently attended Prince George’s Christmas school play in which he played a sheep. According to the proud father, it was “funny.”
Now, fashion. Kate turned up in a new grey plaid coat by LK Bennett worn over a new red Goat dress and black suede Tod’s block heels. All told, I think this was a win – I like each garment separately and I like how they’re styled together. This is definitely quite the season for Goat, a brand that, as we’ve discussed, Kate especially enjoys wearing during her pregnancies.
That said, I do want to call out that this outfit is indicative of Kate continuing to purchase items that are incredibly similar. Back in November 2014, when pregnant with Princess Charlotte, she wore a red dress by Katherine Hook with a comparable cut and length.
For that matter, I would point out this coat calls to mind her black and white Reiss coat.
And to a lesser extent, a plaid Diane von Furstenberg worn when she left the hospital after a HG-induced stay at the beginning of her pregnancy with George.
I don’t really have a problem with this, but I do continue to find it a bit odd. Particularly when it comes to the red dress – since the Katherine Hook was also worn during pregnancy, it stands to reason it could have been repeated. What do you guys think?
As of right now there’s nothing else on deck for Kate in the near future, but I’m hoping a handful of engagements are added before the holiday. Part of that is wanting to see her, of course, and part of this is knowing end of year engagement numbers are coming in soon and the higher those stats are for Kate the less criticism she’ll receive. Similarly, there’s no word on when we’ll see Meghan Markle next, but William and Prince Harry will attend a Star Wars film event together on Tuesday, Dec. 12.
As for here, we’ll return to history tomorrow and Sunday and I’ll be covering the release of The Crown’s next season.
One final note, I took a screenshot of the Daily Mail’s original headline for today’s engagement (it has since been updated). Lest we ever think commentary that the media pitting these women against one another is overblown, I think this a good reminder. It’s (sometimes) subtle, but it’s most certainly there. I’ve just gone through the available photos from the day and no one looked bored to me. As for crowds thinning outside over the course of the day, well, it’s December in Manchester.
Full text of William’s speech:
Good afternoon and thank you for having myself and Catherine here.
First of all, a word if I might about this great city of Manchester – to which most of you are visitors. You may have seen, if you have had a chance to go outside, the symbol of the bee everywhere in the city – the bee is Manchester’s symbol, a reminder of this city’s industriousness and creativity.
It is also a reminder of Manchester’s community spirit, the sense of pulling together. Manchester has had a tough year, and I personally stand in awe of the way that the people of Manchester have united in bravery and support of one another. This community is a great example to all of us, wherever we are from. I hope you all have a chance to witness some of this remarkable place for yourselves while you are here for the Summit.
So, the Children’s Summit. We are all here today because we know that childhood matters.
The years of protection and education that childhood provides are the foundation for our society. The programme makers and tech leaders in this room understand that.
Our childhood years are the years we learn.
They are the years we develop resilience and strength.
They are the years where our capacity for empathy and connection are nurtured.
They are the years where we impart the values of tolerance and respect, family and community, to the youth that will lead our nations in the future.
Parents like Catherine and me are raising the first generation of digitally-immersed children – and this gives us many reasons to be optimistic about the impact of technology on childhood.
Barriers to information about the world are falling. The child of today can learn about far flung corners of the world with previously unimaginable ease.
Social media holds the promise for children who can feel isolated to build and maintain friendships.
Digital media is seeing today’s young people develop a passion and capacity for civic involvement that is without parallel in human history.
Programme makers have access to real-time research that helps them shape engaging, educational content for children in ways that would have been unheard of in years gone by.
We should celebrate and embrace these changes.
What we cannot do, however, is pretend that the impact of digital technology is all positive or, indeed, even understood.
I am afraid to say that, as a parent, I believe we have grounds for concern.
I entered adulthood at the turn of the millennium. The generation of parents that Catherine and I are a part of had understood the world of mobile phones, the internet, email, and the like for some time. We had every reason to feel confident.
The changes we have incorporated into our own lives as adults have often felt incremental, not revolutionary.
The vast array of digital television content that many households enjoy today did not spring up overnight.
The birth of the smartphone was heralded as a landmark moment. In truth, though, we incorporated constant texting, checking of email on our devices, and 24/7 availability into our lives over the course of many years.
The centrality of the internet for education, shopping, and the organisation of domestic life has been the work of two decades.
And it is the gradual nature of this change – the slow warming of the water in the pot if you like– that I believe has led us to a moment of reckoning with the very nature of childhood in our society.
The latest Ofcom research into the media consumption habits of British children shows us just how dramatically the landscape has changed without most parents pausing to reflect on what actually is happening.
Parents who were born before the invention of the World Wide Web now have children aged 5 to 15 who spend two hours a day online.
Ten years after the introduction of the iPhone, over 80 percent of 12 to 15 year olds have a smartphone.
Most of my contemporaries graduated university before any of us had Facebook accounts – and now 74 percent of 12 to 15 year olds are on social media.
And a generation of parents for whom watching television was something that happened as a family around a single set have given a fifth of our 3 to 4 year olds their own tablets.
Now, I am no Luddite – I believe strongly in the positive power of technology; but I am afraid that I find this situation alarming.
My alarm does not come from childhood immersion in technology per se. My alarm comes from the fact that so many parents feel they are having to make up the rules as they go along.
We have put the most powerful information technology in human history into the hands of our children – yet we do not yet understand its impact on adults, let alone the very young.
And let me tell you parents are feeling the pressure. We need guidance and support to help us through some serious challenges.
Everywhere you go, mothers and fathers are asking each other the same questions.
- ‘Did you see that so-and-so’s friend had an iPhone at the playground?’
- ‘How can I keep my daughter off social media if all of her friends are on it?’
- ‘How do I know what my children are doing online in their bedrooms? How do I monitor what they’re messaging to other children?’
- ‘How do I find out what apps my children have downloaded?’
- How do we protect family time and teach our kids about actual connection, when all their communication is through their phone?
- How do we convince our children to go outside and be active and fit, when all they want to do is play online?
These conversations are happening right now in our towns and cities and right across the world. We have all let technology slowly creep into our lives. And now we are waking up to the enormity of the challenge technology and modern digital media will mean for children.
The people in this room may be the best placed in the planet to help today’s parents, teachers, and caregivers to grapple with these questions. As I said earlier, you are only here because you are passionate about childhood. Your combined experience and insight can be a powerful force for positive guidance.
Parents are eager for your advice about how best to combine technology and innovation with the timeless goal of safe and innocent early years that are filled with love and genuine connection.
Like all of you, I believe firmly in the power of bringing people together, people with knowledge and passion, to tackle big issues confronting our society. That is what I did through the Royal Foundation when we established the Taskforce for the Prevention of Cyberbullying.
Bullying through phones and social media is an issue that caught my attention after reading about children who had taken their own lives when the pressure got too much.
As a HEMS and Air Ambulance pilot, I was called to the scenes of suicides and I witnessed the devastation and despair it brought about. And I felt a responsibility to do something about it.
The Royal Foundation brought together the leading players in digital and social media, the ISPs, academic researchers, and children’s charities. And importantly, we brought children and parents themselves to the table, so their voices could be heard directly.
What we heard is that cyberbullying is one of those issues that had been allowed to slowly take root. An age-old problem had been gradually transformed and accelerated by technology that allowed bullies to follow their targets even after they had left the classroom or the playing field.
The technology we put into the hands of our children had for too many families shattered the sanctity and protection of the home.
After a year and half’s work, the taskforce announced a plan of action last month. The sector agreed to four main areas of work:
- the implementation of standard guidelines for the reporting and handling of bullying;
- a national advertising campaign to establish a code of conduct for the online behaviour of children;
- the piloting of an emotional support platform on social media;
- and finally the members have pledged to continue to work together to offer consistent advice to parents and more material for children to help them thrive online. And you will hear more about this next.
I am proud of what was achieved, but, as I said at the time of the plan’s launch, I had hoped we could go further. I am very pleased that the BBC has taken up the challenge of supporting one area that I believe merits further discussion: the creation of a single, universal tool for children to report bullying when they see it or experience it – regardless of which platform it happens on.
What we have shown through the taskforce – and what we show when we gather on days like today – is that solutions to our challenges are possible when we work together.
We can be optimistic about the way digital media will help our children when we can be frank about our concerns.
Families can embrace technology with confidence when they can access the best the best support and advice.
And we can be hopeful about the future of our society when we all know that protecting the essence of childhood remains our collective and urgent priority.