Date of Meeting: 18 May 2017

Meeting Organizer: United Nations Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD); Department of Public Information NGO Relations (DPINGO)

ISJC Staff Present: Joseph Halliday

Reporter: Joseph Halliday

Which SDG does this topic cover? 4

Type of meeting: DPINGO briefing in observance of the International Day of Families

Brief summary of presentation of information made

Jeff Brez: Chief, DPINGO

Introduced event; made reference to SDGs and relevance of SDG 4 to this topic.

Alberto Padova: Chief, Social Integration Branch, DSPD

  • Purpose of day is to raise awareness of the role of families in development - often overlooked or taken for granted. Task of social development much harder or impossible without families’ support.
  • In 2015, focus on SDG 5, 2016 SDG 3. 2017 sees a focus on SDG 4. Families have an important role to play - ‘education starts at home’. Supportive and simulative family environments ensure a good start in life - importance of parents, grandparents, caregivers. They can assist peace and tolerance with their influence.
  • Work/family balance important so people can be both good employees and good parents.
  • Policy and legislation that recognises the family’s important role is vital.

Esuna Dugarova: Policy Specialist, UNDP

Acted as moderator; made opening remarks.

Eduardo Garcia Rolland: Early Childhood Development (ECD) Specialist, UNICEF

  • ECD refers to development of children up to age of going to school - inception to three years, and then three years to around five years. These periods are a dramatic period in our lives.
  • Historic moments for ECD: Early history (1946-1980) (advocacy for child’s right to health, provision of resources), Child Survival Revolution (1980s and 1990s), MDG era (2000-2015) (move towards thriving of children, not just survival) and SDG era (2016-2030?).
  • Video shown, discussing ‘still face’ experiment and importance of social interaction in infancy.
  • ‘The relationship between genes and environment is closer than ever before’ - family is key because connections with family are critical to the nature of the environment.
  • Brain determines who we are. Most important period in development is period ECD refers to. ‘The earlier the better.’ Research shows children subjected to abuse or neglect fall behind and have lower intelligence and electrical activity. Toxic stress during childhood has a negative impact.
  • Capacity to learn decreases significantly after three to five years.
  • Developing brains need nutrition, enrichment and protection.

Patricia Debeljuh: Director, Research Center for Work-Family Balance, IAE Business School, Austral University

  • Family time should be a priority, key to childhood development and thus adult development.
  • Lack of flexibility in the workplace affects the physical and mental health of workers, and soon the well-being of the family as a whole. ‘This context pollutes human ecology.’
  • What can we do?
    • Shared responsibilities: individuals (what is best for the child?), states (legislation), corporations (respect of work-family balance).
    • Awareness of how work-family balance affects child development.
    • ‘Global Home Index’ - interviews with 50 experts from many countries allowed common factors to be identified and researched, forming this comparative study of home life.
  • Best practices: paternity leave beyond the law, reduction in hours whilst child is new-born at Walmart; ‘first working experience’ for employee’s young children at Roche; ‘gerontology counselling service’ at Telecom.

Diego Barroso: Director, Family Enrichment Courses Co-ordination and Expansion, International Federation for Family Development

  • A child has physical, emotional, social, financial, intellectual needs from infancy to adulthood.
  • Parents have a unique role that cannot be placed. Lots of skills and patience are required - with constant work and growth.
  • Before universal/compulsory education, parents and family was seen as responsible for the development of a child. Most men and women aspire to be great parents but some factors make this more challenging: external influences, shifting schedules, change in gender roles. Work and family lives are increasingly influencing each other.
  • Parent education is popular but could be more effective. This comes from other parents, teachers, counsellors, psychiatrists, ministers, nurses/doctors, social workers and other professionals. The ‘marketing’ of these programmes should be more effective, ensuring all families have access to them. They can bring about less stress, lower risk of divorce, maltreatment and unwanted behaviours, and increase parents’ skills and bring about greater gender equality.
  • Schools, teachers, parents all have a role to play - links between these actors are important.
  • Mention made of churches being a source of resources for families.

Michael Robb - Director of Research, Common Sense Media

  • Heavy use of new media: computers, tablets, phones, TV etc.. Parents feel a lot of guilt and anxiety over this. Solutions?
    • Look for media (apps, TV shows, movies etc.) with positive messages and educational value.
    • Co-use (e.g. watching TV with, using apps with) children boosts learning.
    • Excessive use linked with negative outcomes - problematic views and behaviours.
    • Be intentional about use of media i.e. not as background viewing.
    • Be careful around advertising e.g. junk food.
  • Are we addicted? Is this term used too readily? Controversial. True addiction can lead to breakdown in relationships, poor social skills, increased depression, increased OCD. Conclusion: little evidence of true addiction.
  • Multi-tasking is an issue - using multiple devices, trying to play or converse simultaneously. Can be a problem - more prone to errors, hard to create accurate memories, ironic inability to multi-task well. Single-tasking is an aspiration.
  • Other issues - obesity, sleep quality, violence.

Conclusion: use common sense approach. Are children healthy, exercising, sociable, and working well at school? If so, technology may not be such a large problem for that individual. Clear boundaries (timing, rules) important. Using media with children. Know your own rules. Connect media to real life. Talk about commercials and other advertising. Encourage creation as well as consumption. Talk about digital citizenship. Be a good example.

What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?

  • A clear message of the importance of families was given by all speakers. As one speaker said: ‘Family time should be a priority’. With this in mind, Salvation Army programmes can bring huge benefits to childhood development and in turn, as the speakers state, development in general. Organisers should use this information to shape the nature of their offering.
  • Salvationists worried about the increasing use of technology at home should take a holistic approach where it is viewed in the overall context of the child’s upbringing. Are they healthy, exercising, sociable, and working well at school? Good use of technology can bring benefits.
  • Children have a range of needs - physical, emotional, social, financial and intellectual – and parents and caregivers should strive to ensure these are all being met.

Web links for more information

Tags: SDG4: Quality Education