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Is There a Ladder of Children’s Online Participation?

(26 February 2019) Is internet access providing children with new opportunities to enhance their participation? What do they need to benefit from these new opportunities and is there a gap between what we expect and what really happens?To address these crucial questions, UNICEF Innocenti and the Global Kids Online network has released a new Innocenti Research Brief, "Is there a ladder of children’s online participation?" which presents the findings of surveys on children’s internet access and use, opportunities and skills, risks and safety conducted in Bulgaria, Chile and South Africa.Findings show that although many children enjoy some of the opportunities offered by internet, most children do not engage in all opportunities offered by the civic, informational and creative activities that earmark the digital age and are available on the net.Two adolescent girls use a cellphone outside a solar kiosk in the Za’atari camp for Syrian refugeesLife context and skills likely influence how children navigate different pathways to online opportunities. Differences among countries suggest that pathways can be designed differently depending on national goals and values and that countries can mutually learn from experiences of others to integrate out-of-school- learning into school curricula.“Much is still unclear about how online opportunities translate into clear benefits,” said Daniel Kardefelt-Winther, UNICEF Innocenti’s research lead on child internet use. “The Global Kids Online network is currently researching whether certain activities are associated with children’s digital skills development, and whether other activities are associated with increased risk of harm.”Despite the differences among the three countries, cross-nationally comparative data reveal some commonalities in the behavior of children online that, according to the researchers, can represent ‘steps’ on the ladder of online participation. However, the ladder cannot suggest whether children begin at the bottom and climb to a certain point. Without availability of longitudinal data, in fact, steps on the ladder can only map out a theoretical pathway to online participation. Among the activities measured by the survey – i.e. learning, creativity, community and civic participation, relationships, entertainment and personal benefits – results reveal that 9-11-year-olds take their first steps by engaging in social activities and gaming; activities that seem to encourage early internet use across the three countries; 12-14-year-olds do rather more activities, including some learning and information activities; 15-17-year-olds are more engaged in civic and creative activities. The first step – social activities and gaming – shows that across the three countries these activities appear attractive and accessible to children, encouraging early internet use. Whether they also provide encouragement to progress and advance in online experience and expertise by building the initial skills of children so that kids can climb further up the ladder, is something that still requires further investigation. Children learn with the help of a computer tablet provided by UNICEF at a school in Baigai, northern Cameroon.Similarly, as online gaming is the most common activity in all three countries among the youngest children, it could be better exploited and used as a gateway to constructive educational and participatory activities online, as well as to support digital skills development, if games would be created to provide learning opportunities while still entertaining.Learning activities have also been found at the first step in all three countries. However, this is more evident where governments and policy makers support ICT in education systems and curricula like in Chile. Findings show that a considerable proportion of children in all three countries use the internet for schoolwork, which might help them compensate for inequalities at home and, in the longer term, it could help them become more used to utilizing the internet for educational purposes. The finding that relatively few children participate in activities higher up on the ladder, i.e. creative and civic activities, suggests that they may lack motivation, skills and support to engage in them. Activities on the higher steps seem to be reserved mainly for older children according to the brief. However, more evidence would be necessary to investigate why this is the case, and if policy and programme interventions can make a difference. “It’s easy to assume that because children have access to the internet, they are gaining all the benefits of the online world. But our findings show they are not. I hope the brief will stimulate innovative policies to improve children’s enjoyment of their participation rights.”, said Sonia Livingstone, Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science and lead author of the brief.Due to its nature, the research cannot be interpreted normatively because the list of online activities children are engaged with is not exhaustive and likely to change over time. Further studies must be developed to investigate the qualitative aspects of what children value and why in their online journeys; to evaluate the concrete benefits in short and long term of children’s online participation; to analyze the multifactorial and multidimensional factors and risks associated with online children’s participation; and to confirm whether and how online activities may improve children’s digital skills.Despite these caveats, however, it may be valuable for countries to set expectations for which activities they believe children might benefit from at various stages of their development and evaluate outcomes and inequalities against them. This could help increase the number of children benefitting from the opportunities that internet and mobile technologies can offer.
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Protecting Children in Migration Across the European Union: Learning from Practices

(20 February 2019) The huge spike in numbers of migrant and refugee children arriving in Europe between mid-2015 and mid-2017 put significant strain not only on asylum systems but also protection and welfare services. However, it also led to national and EU authorities putting in place promising and innovative responses to protect children on the move in Europe.
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Unleashing the Potential of Social Protection for Adolescent Girls and Women

(18 February 2019) On the occasion of the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, UNICEF and the GAGE consortium coordinated by ODI will hold the side event: Status Gender and Adolescent Responsive Social Protection: Unleashing the Potential of Social Protection for Adolescent Girls and Women.
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Universal Child Grants Conference Highlights Power of Evidence-Informed Policies for Children

(11 February 2019) Bringing together policy makers, practitioners, and researchers, the International Conference on Universal Child Grants, convened by UNICEF, the International Labour Organization, and the Overseas Development Institute, from February 6 to 8, 2019, explored the arguments and evidence emerging from cash transfer schemes and the implications for universal child grants.
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Compendium of UNICEF research across Eastern Europe and Central Asia now available

(8 February 2019) In an effort to strengthen its programmes for children, a new compendium of externally reviewed research and evaluation studies has been published by UNICEF’s Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia. The compendium of 20 recently completed, quality-assured evaluations aims to provide an overview of important new evidence from across the region.
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Improved Outcomes in Education, Nutrition, Wellbeing for Refugee children in Lebanon

(4 February 2019)  Lebanon hosts a large number of Syrian refugees who fled conflict at home and often struggle to earn enough income to meet their families’ immediate basic needs. Many of these families are unable to support essential costs associated with education, causing their children to miss out on the long-term benefits of schooling in favor of short-term household needs.In response, a child-focused cash transfer program for displaced Syrian children in Lebanon was piloted in the 2016-2017 school year. The program, known as the “No Lost Generation” or “Min Ila” (“from/to” in Arabic), was designed to reduce financial and other obstacles to children’s school attendance, including reliance on child labor, to minimize the impact of negative coping strategies on children. “Initiating an impact evaluation to understand the effectiveness of a programme aimed at refugees is quite unique,” said Jacobus de Hoop, humanitarian policy specialist with UNICEF Innocenti. “There are many challenges to setting up a longitudinal study in this type of environment. UNICEF Lebanon has been a front-runner with this initiative.” Min Ila was initiated by UNICEF, in partnership with the United Nations World Food Programme and in coordination with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in Lebanon.A recently produced final technical report, “Min Ila” Cash Transfer Programme for Displaced Syrian Children in Lebanon, now provides an evaluation of the Min Ila project’s effect on improving children’s health and nutrition; on lowering child engagement in household work; on improving children’s subjective well-being; and on increasing child school attendance. The report documents important positive gains on key indicators among Syrian children living in Lebanon, and was jointly prepared by UNICEF Innocenti and the American Institutes for Research.Syrian refugee children aged 5–14 who lived in Lebanon’s Mount Lebanon and Akkar governorates and were enrolled in a second-shift school received a basic monthly education transfer to cover a portion of the indirect costs of going to school, such as school snacks, transportation, and appropriate clothing and shoes. Findings demonstrate that Min Ila had a positive impact on children’s food consumption, with fewer children aged 10–14 skipping a meal the previous day than children in the comparison group. More children in pilot governorates started the day with breakfast, and fewer children also went to bed hungry. Similarly, positive outcomes were found in reducing the percentage of children aged 10–14 carrying out household chores, with outstanding results in particular for girls. Syrian refugee Yamen, who attends school, walks past lines of laundry at an informal settlement in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. “I only did one year of schooling before the war. The school here is very different from school in Syria."  The non-experimental longitudinal study compares beneficiaries in the Lebanese governorates of Mount Lebanon and Akkar with households that would be eligible for the program but who are not receiving the programme because they live in the non-programme governorates of North Lebanon, South Lebanon and Nabatieh. The study uses a ‘geographic regression discontinuity’ design, in which households that are located near the border separating pilot and comparison governorates are compared with each other.Moreover, the programme improved children’s well-being in pilot governorates as compared with children in non-Min Ila governorates. Children in pilot governorates felt more optimistic about the future, were more trusting of other people, and felt more confident and assertive. Although not statistically significant, some findingsare also suggestive of an impact in reducing depression rates, with a slightly larger impact – here again – for girls than for boys, possibly related to a drop in girls involvement in household work. Finally, aggregate figures from the Lebanon Ministry of Education and Higher Education suggested that formal school enrollment rates of displaced Syrian children increased rapidly across the country over the period of the study. These increases appear to have been stronger in the Governorates in which Min Ila was implemented. Although the study cannot definitively attribute these increases to the program, many of the documented improvements in children’s lives are likely to have contributed to children’s experience in school.
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Child-Related Concerns a Major Driver of Migration, According to a Recent Poll

(30 January 2019)  Young, single males with secondary education or higher have the strongest intention to migrate and to take measures to plan for it, according to a poll on drivers of migration decisions among children and young people.The UNICEF Innocenti Working Paper titled: “Child Related Concerns and Migration Decisions: Evidence from the Gallup World Poll,” reveals new insights on the drivers of migration, with important implications for policymaking. The new evidence supports the hypothesis that child-related concerns are potential drivers of migration and could represent a major new starting point for further analysis on the role of youth, the condition of children’s wellbeing and other child-related factors in decisions to migrate.  On 8 January 2014 in Turkey, (far left) Susan Ahmedi, 13, stands with her mother (second from left), four sisters and two brothers outside the tent shelter they share in Islahiye refugee camp in Gaziantep ProvinceThe study analyses data from the Gallup World Poll, representing 98 per cent of the world’s adult population (over 15 years old). The data focuses on the condition of children in their home country and on the presence of youth within the households. Data was collected from more than 150 countries between the years 2006 and 2016.The study is the first attempt to quantify the extent to which child-related concerns influence migration intentions and plans. The Gallup World Poll data allow researchers to monitor migration trends, as well as to describe and identify common features characterizing potential migrants (age, gender, education, income level and marital status).  Gallup’s Youth Development Index gathered data on child-related concerns through three survey questions: How many children under 15 years of age are now living in your household?Do you believe that children in [country] are treated with respect and dignity?Do most children in [country] have the opportunity to learn and grow every day?Since the Gallup World Poll interviewed individuals aged 15 years and older, researchers were able to analyse migration phenomena of adults and youth directly. The Gallup Poll also identifies households with children under 15, allowing for important analysis on the perception of child living standards, leading to key insights on the extent to which child-related concerns were associated with decisions to migrate.Evidence reveals that child-related concerns, worldwide, can be considered likely drivers of migration, alongside factors related to economics, governance and lack of security. Perceived child well-being has been revealed to affect migration intent more than factors like satisfaction with public services or food deprivation. This means that child-related concerns are a primary consideration in migration plans, more important than factors such as satisfaction with public services, economic conditions and confidence in key institutions. As a result, the following striking findings can be inferred from the analysis:Migration is a child- and youth-related phenomenon, as both migration intent and migration plans peak at an early age (approximately at age 17 and 22 respectively, in global terms);Perceived child well-being significantly affects both migration intent and plans, even after having considered a full range of other influential factors affecting migration decisions;Individuals belonging to households with children aged 15 or below are more affected by child-related variables in their migration intent or plan, than those living in children-free household;The presence of children in the household positively affects migration intent, and negatively affects migration plans. In other words, the presence of children encourages people to search for a better life somewhere else. On the other hand, it represents an obstacle to the realization of migration intent, as children may represent additional costs in the migration process.Mohammad Abdullah-Shariff and his wife, Shirin Aziz-Amah, with their five children, at the Moria reception centre for refugees and migrants on the island of Lesbos, Greece.  Regional variances in income levels also play a critical role. Households in upper-middle-income countries devote greater importance to children’s well-being than households in other income ranges (in both migration intent and plans). In addition, child-related issues in high-income countries lose their importance, but remain statistically significant, in favor of other factors, traditionally considered as drivers of migration and affecting migration intent.  
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The CASH Plus Model: Improving Adolescent Wellbeing with Evidence

(20 December 2018)  In Tanzania a new model of social protection is using research and evidence to improve outcomes for adolescent wellbeing. The results of this programme, called 'Cash Plus', are now documented in a new film produced by UNICEF Innocenti. Told largely through the voices of young people, the 10 minute documentary reveals the crucial role of research and evaluation in improving effectiveness of Tanzania's national Productive Social Safety Net cash transfer social protection programme.The new film is a rare example of a compelling visual narrative on the role of evidence generation in the development process.  "Far too often the complexity of the community development process is lost when internatioanl organizations seek to make short films about their interventions," said Dale Rutstein, Chief of Communication at UNICEF Innocenti. "The role of research and evaluation is the least likely component of the process to be captured in such films." The film examines the gaps discovered in the first phase of Tanzania's Productive Social Saftey cash transfer programme: household incomes and productive activity increased, but risks and challenges for adolescents, especially exposure to HIV, were unaffected. Evaluation evidence led to the development of the Cash Plus approach which linked critical services and sectors for adolescents to the households receiving transfers."The Cash Plus Model: Improving Adolescent Well-being with Evidence" could not have been produced without the generous support of the UNICEF Tanzania Country Office, the Tanzania Social Action Fund and the numerous adolescents and community training facilitators in the Rungwe District of Mbeya Province, Tanzania.
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Q&A: Unpacking Research on Drivers of Violence Against Children

(22 October 2018) The report Research that Drives Change: Conceptualizing and Conducting Nationally Led Violence Prevention Research, is the result of a four-year-long multi-country study of the drivers of violence affecting children in Italy, Viet Nam, Peru and Zimbabwe. Led by UNICEF Innocenti with its academic partner, the University of Edinburgh, the study was conducted by national research teams comprised of government, practitioners, and academic researchers in each of the four countries. We interview former UNICEF Innocenti researcher Dr. Mary Catherine Maternowska, who conceived of the research project, about the study’s origins and most interesting and significant findings.
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Sinovuyo Teen Parenting Programme Breaks Ground in Providing Evidence and Insights in Preventing Violence Against Children

(26 November 2018) In support of local and global efforts to prevent violence against children, UNICEF South Africa and the UNICEF Innocenti partnered with the Department of Social Policy and Intervention Centre of University of Oxford to incubate and test a programme for parents/main caregivers of adolescents.  This was done over a period of four years in the Eastern Cape province, which has the highest percentage of assaults in the country, 50 per cent of the children live in households with no employed adult and 33 per cent live with neither of their biological parents.READ THE REPORT: Relevance, Implementation and Impact of the Sinovuyo Teen Parenting Programme in South AfricaResearch timeline & methodology:  In 2012 an initial draft programme was discussed with 50 local and international experts who shared advice and programme input. In 2013, community workers   were trained and tasked to deliver the programme to 30 parent-teen dyads (n=60 participants).In 2014, a pre-post test of the revised 2013 programme was conducted with  115 parent-teen dyads (n = 230 participants). In 2015–2016, a pragmatic cluster randomized controlled trial was conducted in 40 townships and traditional semi-rural villages with 552 parent-teen dyads (270 intervention and 282 control; i.e. n = 1104 participants). The pragmatic cluster randomized controlled trial looked at the extent to which the intended intervention outcomes were achieved. A qualitative study complemented the trial by looking at the effects of service delivery, policy and socio-economic factors that affected programme effectiveness.The Sinovuyo Teen Parent programme is part of the ‘Parenting for Lifelong Health’ initiative, which aims to develop and test evidence-informed parenting programmes that are non-commercial and relevant to lower and middle income countries.   It is a 14-week parenting programme for at-risk families with 10–18 year-old adolescents, typically delivered to a group of dyads (main caregiver and an adolescent from each household) within a social learning approach. Content can be additionally provided via home visits for those families who miss group workshop sessions. The research undertaken by  UNICEF Innocenti and Oxford University examined the impact, relevance and scalability of Sinovuyo Teen Parenting Programme.  The aim of these studies was not only to increase the evidence base of what works in lower income contexts, but also to gain insight to the lived experiences of the programme facilitators and the beneficiaries, to learn from programme implementers and government partners on the relevance and applicability of the programme and to ultimately recommend a programme for policy implementation in the South African context. ‘Delivering a parent support programme in rural South Africa: The local child and youth care provider experience’ describes how the facilitators benefited from the training and experience of delivering the programme professionally and personally as well as their recommendations for improvements to Sinovuyo Teen.‘It empowers to attend” captures the voices of  progrmame beneficiaries and  provides a nuanced picture of what changed in the interaction between caregivers and their adolescents and  how these changes took place in addition to what they did not enjoy about Sinovuyo Teen. ‘Policy and service delivery implications for the implementation and scale up of a parent support programme’  provides insight to  the views expressed by programme implementers, government and non-government stakeholders on how the Sinovuyo Teen programme was delivered, to whom and by whom within the broader service delivery context. “Theme” picture used on Sinovuyo manuals  ‘Relevance, implementation and impact of Sinovuyo Teen Parenting programme in South Africa’ summarizes the findings of the impact of the study,  the perceptions  and experiences of participants and programme implementers and the discussion on key policy and service delivery implications that need to be considered in taking the programme to scale in  South Africa and beyond.The research toolkit  for the randomised controlled trial and the qualitative studies includes the   research protocols, ethics application and approval documents and research instruments that were used   by the UNICEF- Innocenti and Oxford University research team in testing  the effectiveness and implementation of the programme in  2014 and  in  2015–2016.  These tools are merely examples of what can be used for similar purposes. Consideration would need to be given to relevant adaptations in different contexts.The qualitative research on Sinovuyo Teen was informed by an in depth evidence focused literature review on parenting, family care and adolescence in east and southern Africa.   
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