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Children and Families Research Centre

CFRC Conference Archive

[Conferences 2015]


Fourth Australian Conference on Children and the Media. Media, minds and neuroscience: The developing brain in a media-rich environment.


This one day conference focuses on the impact of children's media environment on their neural development. In addition to the keynote speaker, Baroness Susan Greenfield, the conference features prominent researchers and clinicians including Associate Professor Mike Nagel on neural development through childhood and adolescence, Dr Wayne Warburton on brain imaging studies of media impacts, Dr Philip Tam on media-based addictions, Dr Kate Highfield on harnessing technology in learning and Professor Graham Vimpani AM on ways that parents and health professionals can respond to recent findings in media neuroscience.

This event is sponsored by the Hon. Greg Donnelly MLC from the Parliament of New South Wales, and is a joint venture between the Children and Families Research Centre at Macquarie and the Australian Council for Children and the Media. 

Keynote speaker: Baroness Susan Greenfield: 'New media and young brains'

Giftedness in Early Childhood: Insights from Research and Practice - Friday 31 May 2013


A conference presented by CFRC at Dunmore Lang College on 31 May was aligned with the research focus of the CFRC over recent years regarding young children at risk of being marginalised in educational settings. One hundred participants (a full house) took advantage of this rare opportunity to gain insights about young gifted children, who have been largely invisible in research, practice and policy in Australia.  Participants were teachers and administrators in prior-to-school and school settings, parents, academics, psychologists and representatives from early childhood service provider organisations.

Professor Jennifer Bowes opened the conference and also facilitated a lively Q&A session involving the panel of presenters before the close of proceedings.  Dr Kerry Hodge (Institute of Early Childhood & CFRC) introduced the current theory of giftedness adopted by Australian educational systems and outlined the extent of the evidence base in identifying and providing for giftedness, and also the policies that exist, in prior-to-school and school settings.

Back Row: Kate Highfield, Camilla Gordon, Rosalind Walsh, Jennifer Bowes & Valerie Margrain.
Front Row: Kerry Hodge, Anne Grant, Cathie Harrison & Michele Juratowitch

Half of the presenters were from the Institute of Early Childhood/CFRC, Macquarie University, and covered a range of research topics: the experiences and beliefs early childhood teachers regarding gifted children (Dr Kerry Hodge); extending thinking through higher order questioning (Ms Rosalind Walsh); using iPad technology to extend gifted children (Dr Kate Highfield); and stretching children's imagination through astronomy (Ms Camilla Gordon). Presenters of research from other universities were Dr Cathie Harrison (Australian Catholic University, Sydney, on an approach to identification and curriculum planning in the first year of school), Dr Anne Grant (University of Melbourne, on young gifted children's sense of identity in new educational settings), and Dr Valerie Margrain (Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, on approaches to assessing the need for challenge). Ms Michele Juratowitch from Brisbane presented on strategies used in clinical practice to help gifted children develop emotional regulation.

Audience engagement throughout the program and very positive written evaluations indicated that the conference 'hit the spot' and inspired action to optimise educational provision and support for young gifted children.  Melbourne presenters are exploring the possibility of a repetition of the conference there later in the year.

Presenters & Abstracts

Dr Cathie Harrison, Senior lecturer in early childhood education, Australian Catholic University (Strathfield)
GTK - A Creative Approach to Gifted Education in Kindergarten

Ms Michele Juratowitch, Director of Clearing Skies, Brisbane
Emotional regulation: Early challenges for gifted children

Dr Anne Grant, Consultant in early gifted education, Melbourne
Who am I? - Case studies of young gifted children developing a new sense-of-self in an early childhood education program

Dr Valerie Margrain, Senior lecturer in early childhood education, Australian Catholic University (Melbourne)
Assessment for learning: The challenge of identifying where challenge is needed in the early years

Mrs Camilla Gordon, Lecturer and PhD student, Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University 
Excercising astronomical intelligence: Stretching astronomical imagination

Dr Kerry Hodge, Honorary Associate, Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University
Young gifted children: What do their preschool and childcare educators believe and do?

Ms Rosalind Walsh, PhD student, Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University
Extending young gifted children through higher order questioning techniques

Dr Kate Highfield, Lecturer, Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University
Touching on technology - iPads to extend and engage gifted children in higher order thinking



Grandparenting in the 21st Century - Tuesday 20 November 2012


More than 100 grandparents attended this highly relevant and lively conference organised by the CFRC on campus on November 20, 2012.  Responding to the invitation to hear the latest research in the fields of psychology, early childhood, special education and social policy around caring for young children, the grandparents varied widely in their motivations to enrol. Some had been thrown abruptly into the role of carers by family tragedy; others were seeking guidance on how best to help their grandchildren's development and wellbeing. Extremely positive evaluations indicated there was something for everyone. 

A panel set the scene for custodial grandparenting issues. Mr Garry McGann is a current carer and support group advocate. Aunty Ali Golding talked about indigenous Australian extended kinship care, and Mrs Chris Newby spoke movingly about the ongoing difficulties of caring for grandchildren who had witnessed extreme violence and family disintegration. 

Ms Bridget Jenkins (Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW) gave an insight into her research with grandmothers involved in kinship care in western Sydney. She spoke of the complications that arise in gaining practical and financial support when grandchildren are cared for by kin rather than in government-organised arrangements. 

CFRC_Grandparenting2Nov2012Macquarie psychologist, Associate Professor Cathy McMahon, gave a fascinating summary of the brave new world of reproductive technology and the family. She began with an historical perspective, including the 1969 Life magazine poll on test tube babies that posed questions related to the survival of traditional family life and an increase in marital infidelity! Currently around 3.3% of babies born in Australia are the result of Assisted Reproductive Technology. Follow-up studies have shown that despite the stress of infertility and treatment, the development and adjustment of IVF children and their families is comparable to that of other families from a similar socio-economic background.
Introducing his presentation on media violence and its impact on children, Macquarie lecturer in psychology, Dr Wayne Warburton, warned that some of the sample material would be explicit and offensive. Some five minutes later the audience was writhing. Dr Warburton detailed American and Australian research findings on children's use of increasingly mobile media platforms and the harmful effects of their witnessing of on-screen violence. Because the brain physically rewires according to experience, parents and grandparents need to encourage responsible and healthy media use for children from a young age, similarly to healthy eating. Dr Warburton presented recommendations for parents and grandparents.CFRC_Grandparenting3Nov2012

Dr Maria Kangas (Department of Psychology, Macquarie University) has investigated the treatment of posttraumatic stress. She focused on identifying common posttraumatic stress reactions in children who have directly or indirectly experienced traumatic life events and how grandparents can cope and assist these children in their recovery process.

Dr Kate Highfield (Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University) focused on the positive aspects of including some 'digital', interactive and creative media in the play diet of children aged three to four years - the "i" generation. Dr Highfield gave a critique of new applications and downloads and illustrated the educational and creative differences in two app developers' approaches to skill development and feedback. She also demonstrated the ABV TV Play School app as an example of opportunities for young children to create their own media.

Ms Camilla Gordon (Institute of Early Childhood) believes that if children are taught to understand the planet on which they live, they will grow up with values and respectful attitudes towards living things. Grandparents attending her workshop took the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning about astronomy, which can be shared with even young children to foster their understanding of the universe, as Ms Gordon's PhD studies are revealing.

The workshop presented by Dr Kerry Hodge (Institute of Early Childhood) drew grandparents wanting to understand and support gifted children. Dr Hodge outlined the evidence base for the intellectual and social-emotional characteristics that gifted children tend to show and the kinds of supports that families and schools can provide to cater for these children's advanced development and rapid rate of learning.

Associate Professor Mark Carter (Macquarie University Special Education Centre) gave a workshop on making decisions about educational approaches for children with autism.  He listed issues for caregivers and advised on how to separate the wheat from the chaff when considering sources of information, particularly on the internet. Assoc. Prof. Carter cautioned that there were no quick 'slam dunk' treatments, but there were interventions that could assist children, some with stronger evidence of effectiveness than others. He recommended the Raising Children Network website and its guide to therapies for children with autism as a good starting point.  


Bridget Jenkins, Social Policy Research Centre, University of NSW - Hybridity and grandmother kinship care in Western Sydney: Straddling the family/state divide.

Associate Professor Cathy McMahon, Department of Psychology, Macquarie University - A brave new world? Assisted reproductive technology and the family 

Dr Maria Kangas, Department of Psychology, Macquarie University  - Coping with post traumatic stress in children.

Dr Wayne Warburton, Department of Psychology, Macquarie University  - Parenting in a media saturated world.

Dr Kate Highfield, Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University - Children and technology the "i" generation.

Mrs Camilla Gordon, Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University  - Learning Astronomy that we all can understand!

Dr Kerry Hodge, Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University  - Understanding and supporting gifted children.

Dr Mark Carter, Macquarie University Special Education Centre (MUSEC) - Making decisions about educational approaches for children with autism

Financial acknowledgement: Social Inclusion (Diversity 2012 Initiative) and the Vice-Chancellor's Office, Macquarie University

The 3rd Australian Conference on Children and the Media:The corporate takeover of childhood: Who's paying the price? - Friday 9 March 2012


Balancing healthy child development in exploitative commercial environment

The third Australian Conference on Children and the Media, held in Melbourne in March, lost none of the bite and relevance of its earlier manifestations.

Organised by Macquarie University's Children and Families Research Centre (CFRC), in partnership with the Australian Council for Children and the Media (ACCM), the conference attracted top international speakers and a feisty balance of Australian academics and legal and advertising experts. 

This year's theme was The corporate takeover of childhood: who's paying the price?

Director of Australian Institute of Family Studies and CFRC Advisory Board Member, Professor Alan Hayes, chaired the conference and opened with several salient observations about the role of a commercial media environment in a 'child friendly' society.

Stephen Kline, Professor of Communication at Simon Fraser University, and Director of the Media Analysis Laboratory, talked on Fast food/sluggish kids: Researching media-saturated domesticity. Drawing on research for his recent book, Globesity: Food Marketing and Family Lifestyles, he said the majority of North American advertising on children's television was by fast food manufacturers. With the link between obesity and junk food well established, it now requires a whole of family approach to limit television viewing and encourage outdoor activities. Stephen gave practical advice on how to get the message across successfully.

Professor Rob Moodie, Professor of Global Health, University of Melbourne's Nossal Institute, held the audience's attention with compelling Australian data, some from his time as Chair of the National Preventative Health Task Force from 2008-2011. His presentation clearly demonstrated links between advertising and the child/adolescent take-up of products that are not helpful to development.

A leading scientific expert on the positive and negative effects of media on children, adolescents and adults, Associate Professor Douglas Gentile is a developmental psychologist and heads the Media Research Laboratory, Iowa State University. He spoke on his recent research on video game addiction, and on the factors that make video games addictive, including factors incorporated by the producers. He noted research.showing that in the US, Australia, Korea, Singapore and a range of European countries, around 8 percent of children play video games at levels that could be considered pathological (ie with significant psychological impact on school work and friendships).

Professor Sharon Beder, University of Wollongong and co-author of This Little Kiddy Went to Market - The Corporate Capture of Childhood, said the parental role of teaching values and shaping character had been taken over by corporations. 'They want them to define themselves by what they have rather than who they are. They want children to compete with each other and see the market as their first arbiter of values. They set out to get children while they're they will become life-time hyper-consumers. Schools used to be sacrosanct and protected from corporate propaganda but this is no longer the case, with corporations increasingly involved in fundraising activities, sponsorship, incentive schemes and classroom text books.'

 Dr Wendy Varney, University of Wollongong and contributor to This Little Kiddy Went to Market, gave a precis of her research regarding the marketing and cross-promotional marketing of toys to children (for example, Barbie featuring inToy Story, leading to significant merchandising opportunities for both). Her research shows that toys are no longer simply for playing with - they are now powerful marketing tools by which children can be trained in product identification, brand loyalty and fast-paced consumerism.

Dr Wayne Warburton, Macquarie child psychologist, described neuroplasticity to explain the effects of narratives in advertising on children. The brain wires up in utero and continues to wire up according to what we experience until death.  Young children's brains wire at a furious rate but they cannot critically evaluate the inputs, making them vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and other experiences that strongly influence the wiring process. Children can associate one thing with another and remember that association at an early age, one reason advertising works even for very young children. For example, young children simply believe the ads they see, and the messages are thus encoded uncritically into their neural network of concepts and memories. This may explain why children 2 - 6 who watched videos with embedded food commercials were more likely to choose the advertised food item with only one or two exposures. Other aspects of cognitive and neural development also make younger children susceptible to advertising. They have trouble discriminating advertising from program content, encode to memory lots of material they are not focusing on (through incidental learning), and think in concrete terms, thus taking what they see at face value.

Dr Glenn Cupit, Senior Lecturer in child development, University of South Australia, built on this presentation to show how information learned by children from media can teach them scripts for behaviour at an early age.

Updating the legal aspects of media regulation were Commissioner Sarah Court, Commissioner for Enforcement with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and Professor Elizabeth Handsley, Professor of Law, Flinders University.

Sarah's paper, Children and young people as vulnerable consumers: The ACCC's role, spoke on the mechanisms and difficulties involved in monitoring a self regulated media industry. She noted, for example, that a Senate Standing Committee inquiry in 2008 into the sexualisation of children in the contemporary media environment made some recommendations and proposed another inquiry 18 months later. That has not happened and there is no new legislation.

Elizabeth discussed the issue of how well present laws protect children, and also tackled the thorny issue of self-regulation. She discussed potential legal remedies for child protection from exploitation by commercial interests and noted that Australia has some distance to go in this regard.

Author, media commentator and former advertising copywriter Jane Caro gave a very well received talk on the industry's perspective on advertising and marketing to children. Jane noted that industry follows social trends and that changing society's expectations is the best way to change industry behaviour. She described various ways that a message could effectively change social trends, and cited attitudes to drink-driving as a case in point.

Because of the subject matter, this was the most emotive of the three Australian Children and Media Conferences, with vigorous debate being superbly handled by a calm and cool Alan Hayes. Many participants had attended all three conferences, and feedback was very positive. The CFRC would like to thank all attendees and speakers, our partners the ACCM and ARACY, and especially the two international guests, Professors Stephen Kline and Doug Gentile, who were simply outstanding.

Children and Childhood Symposium: Quality, Pedagogy and the Early Years Learning Framework -  Friday 24 February 2012

A Macquarie University symposium on February 24 was timed to coincide with the mandatory introduction of the first national curriculum framework for all Australian childcare centres, preschools and family day care services.


The symposium Quality, Pedagogy and the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) was jointly organised by the Institute for Early Childhood (IEC) and the Children and Families Research Centre. It attracted 100 researchers and practitioners. Present were four Macquarie academics who had helped to develop the EYLF for government in 2010: Associate Professor Jane Torr, Dr Marina Papic, Sandra Cheeseman and the CFRC's Deputy Director, Dr Peter Whiteman.

The EYLF is a key component of the Australian Government's National Quality Framework for early childhood education and care, which in turn has established a National Quality Standard against which every early childhood service is measured. Educators must comply with the EYLF and provide evidence of their implementation. Previously states and territories have worked independently with variable consistency and quality.

The EYLF describes the principles, practice and learning outcomes essential to support and enhance young children's learning from birth to five years of age, as well as their transition to school. The Framework has a strong emphasis on play-based learning as play is the best vehicle for young children's learning, providing the most appropriate stimulus for brain development. The Framework also recognises the importance of communication and language (including early literacy and numeracy) and social and emotional development.

The Macquarie symposium was opened and closed by Professor Jennifer Bowes (Director, Children and Families Research Centre), and Sandra Cheeseman (IEC lecturer and researcher) presented an overview of the EYLF. Janet Robertson (IEC's Mia-Mia Child and Family Study Centre) picked up on the importance of play- and interest-based learning with an entertaining description of the centre's resident chickens, while Associate Professor Alma Fleet (IEC) brought the day's themes together in her presentation on documentation.

'Participants included a broad range of researchers and practitioners from metropolitan and regional providers. The emphasis was on information sharing rather than lecturing,' said Sandra. The Framework, she said, provided a common language for children's learning in the community.

'We described what had driven the development [of the EYLF] and used the workshops and discussion groups to share what it's like working in the field and coping with changes in curriculum, regulations and previous assumptions. Most people had read all the Framework documents, but this was the moment of implementation.'

An important aspect of the symposium, presented during the Research and Practice Panel, focused on the educational implications of research conducted by academics and postgraduate students in the CFRC and IEC. Topics were numeracy, literacies and the arts, and pedagogical leadership. Similarly, research findings were the basis of several of the afternoon discussion sessions in which participants explored what the EYLF meant for their work with infants, children and educators.

The interest in and relevance of the symposium was perhaps best illustrated in its holding 4pm on a Friday afternoon almost all participants were still there for the final session.


Australian Conference on Children and the Media - Scared, sleepless and hostile:  Children, violent/frightening media and public policy  - 1 March 2011

Photo: L- R Dr Wayne Warburton, Deputy Director, CFRC, Professor Doug Gentile, Richard Eckersley, 
Professor John Murray, Dr Sarah Blunden, Professor Ed Donnerstein and Professor Elizabeth Handsley
MediaConf2_1The 130 attendees at the 2nd Australian Conference on Children and the Media in March,  co-organised by the Children and Families Research Centre and the Australian Council for Children  and the Media, were presented with an impressive range of international research into the effect of  media violence on developing minds.

Increasing modes of media delivery - TV, film, DVD, video games, mobile phone, ipods, internet, website, social networking - are extending the time children may be exposed to potentially violent and frightening images and messages (think cyber bullying, for example). Should our regulatory and classification systems be more effective in protecting children and in supporting parents?

Conference speakers tackled major issues and the feedback from the audience drawn from national and state government departments and peak organisations, academia and the professions, was extremely positive. 

Professor Ed Donnerstein (Dean of the College of Social and Behavioural Sciences, University of Arizona) presented a wide-ranging review of 60 years of research on children and violent media. Overall, studies reveal that exposure to media violence can contribute to aggressive behaviour, desensitisation to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed, and thus represent a significant risk to the health of children and adolescents.  Professor Donnerstein said that 60% of [US] TV programs contain violence. Much was still glamourised with attractive perpetrators, aggressive characters not punished, and no remorse, criticism or penalty for aggressive behaviour. Much of the violence was also sanitised with no depiction of pain and few long-term consequences.

Professor Douglas Gentile (Associate Professor of Developmental Psychology and Head of the Media Research Lab, Iowa State University) profiled the multiple American rating systems and their similarity to the Australian, Pan-European and Singaporean templates for classification. Professor Gentile noted that primarily age-based classification systems have multiple drawbacks, and that systems which provide detailed content descriptors can be more effective.

Professor John P Murray (Research Fellow, Department of Psychology, Washington College, and Visiting Scholar, Center on Media and Child Health at Children's Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School) showed images from his studies mapping children's brain activations using function Magnetic Resonance Imaging while they viewed violent and nonviolent videos. These revealed activation in brain systems linked to both aggressive behaviours and non-thought-through responding during exposure to violent media.

Macquarie developmental psychologist, Dr Wayne Warburton, who convened the conference, focused on fear-inducing media rather than aggression-promoting effects of exposure to media violence.. Dr Warburton said international research had found that 9% of kindergarten to 4th grade children had nightmares related to their television viewing at least once a week.  A  survey of more than 2000 Ohio eighth graders found that as the number of hours of TV viewing per day increased, so too did the prevalence of symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD. Dr Warburton presented evidence-based advice on age-appropriate ways to assist children to cope with frightening and upsetting media.

Dr Sarah Blunden (Director of the Australian Centre of Education in Sleep and the Paediatric Sleep Clinic) noted that sleep was crucial to healthy child and adolescent development, but that media exposure was cutting into children's sleep time, creating a 'sleep deficit' for many children. Dr Blunden said that parents were finding it harder to buffer their children from new technologies. Quoting Adelaide studies, Dr Blunden said a group of 5-8 year old public school children were found to have less sleep the more they watched TV. The later in the evening they watched, the more detrimental to their sleep.

Professor Elizabeth Handsley (constitutional and media law expert, Flinders University) called for children's media law based on the United Nations Convention of Rights of the Child, and overseen by a single enforcement body. The law should be based on children's needs, not on historical arrangements and political expediency.

Richard Eckersley (Founding Director of Australia 21) questioned the popular notion that children are thriving in modern western culture, and examined the role of media in many factors undermining the mental and physical health of children and youth, including its contribution to unhealthy lifestyle choices and a consumer-oriented world-view.

The conference was fortunate to have the highly respected Professor Alan Hayes (Director, Australian Institute of Family Studies) as chair. Professor Hayes used his considerable experience with children and families to draw into a cohesive narrative, throughout the conference and at its conclusion, the threads of the conference presentations about the effects of violent and frightening media on children.

Professor Hayes excellent conclusion was a fitting way to end a conference that was very well received by a lively and well-informed group of attendees.


Migrant and Refugee Families Conference - 11 November 2010



This one-day conference of the Children and Families Research Centre (CFRC) presented research from Macquarie University and around Australia on migrant and refugee families and their adjustment to life in their new country. Issues of language, education and dealing with past experiences were raised and discussed. The day ended with a panel of policy makers and service providers highlighting the main rewards and challenges for them in supporting new families entering Australia. Professionals working with migrant and refugee families, researchers and students as well as policy makers found this a rewarding day to update their knowledge of current research on migrant and refugee families in Australia.


Welcome to Country: Kerry Lennis, Aboriginal Caseworker, Department of Human Services Community Services
Introduction: Professor Jennifer Bowes, Director, Children and Families Research Centre
Keynote speaker: Professor Gail Whiteford, Pro Vice Chancellor (Social Inclusion)
Associate Professor Lynda Yates & Dr. Agnes Terraschke, Linguistics Macquarie University - Which language to use at home and why it matters.
Dr María Florencia Amigó, Children and Families Research Centre, Macquarie University - New Country, A New School: Migrant Children at a Crossroads of Expectations.
Dr Katey De Gioia, Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University - Arriving in Australia and arriving at school: Perspectives of families, children and teachers.
Associate Professor Jeanette Lawrence and Dr Abi Brooker, Psychology, University of Melbourne - Refugee and immigrant young people finding a way in Australian schools and Australian culture.
 Dr Ida Kaplan, Direct Services Manager, Foundation House (Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture) - Trauma, development and the refugee experience: the value of an integrated approach to practice and research.
Dr Lyn Vromans, School of Psychology and Counselling, Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology - The Psychological Wellbeing of People from Burmese Refugee Backgrounds: Recent Findings. 
Associate Professor Morag McArthur, Director Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University Limited and Ms Vicky Saunders, Research Associate, Institute of Child Protection Studies - Getting it right: Reflections on how best to engage refugee children and their parents in research about their resettlement in Australia.
Dr Emma Pearson, Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University - Building relationships with mothers from culturally diverse backgrounds who are caring for a child with a disability.
Ms Marian Esler, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA)
Ms Hanya Stefaniuk, Manager, Multicultural Programs, NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) - Support provided for migrant and refugee children and young people in government schools in NSW. 
Ms Shakti Sah-Raj, Migrant and Refugee Services Manager, Mission Australia - Transforming the lives of Australians in need.
Mr Mark Franklin, Executive Officer, Ethnic Communities' Council of NSW - Issues affecting migrants in NSW and the role of The Ethnic Communities' Council of NSW (ECC).


Growing up fast and furious: Reviewing the impacts of violent and s*xualised media on children - 19 March 2010

From Left to right: The Australian Conference on Children and the Media was opened by the Minister for Home Affairs, Hon Brendan O'Connor (third from left), pictured here with speakers and organisers Dr Wayne Warburton (CFRC), Professor Elizabeth Handsley (Flinders University & ACCM VP), Professor Ed Donnerstein (University of Arizona), Professor L Rowell Huesmann (University of Michigan), Professor Craig Anderson (Iowa State University) and Barbara Biggins (ACCM CEO).C&M conf photo

This March conference was a timely and important review of the impacts of violent and s*xualised media on children.

Organised as a joint venture by the Children and Families Research Centre (CFRC) at Macquarie University and the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM), the conference delivered the most powerful panel of experts ever assembled for such a seminar in Australia.

The speakers included three of the most highly respected international researchers in the field of media violence effects: Professor L Rowell Huesmann (University of Michigan), Professor Ed Donnerstein (University of Arizona) and Distinguished Professor Craig Anderson (Iowa State University).

The Australian experts were psychiatrist Professor Louise Newman (Monash University) who spoke on the s*xualisation of children, Professor of Law Elizabeth Handsley (Flinders University) who discussed role of regulation and classification, philosopher and cognitive neuroscientist Dr Cordelia Fine (Macquarie University) who explained children's understanding of advertising, and psychologist Dr Wayne Warburton (Macquarie University) who presented evidence on the effects of violent music videos. Dr Warburton, from the Children and Families Research Centre, was the conference instigator.

Professor Huesmann presented data from longitudinal studies of what he described as "devastating consequences" of long-term exposure to violence in the electronic media and in real life. Severe violent behaviour is almost always the product of "predisposing characteristics of the person and precipitating factors of the moment". Television, movies and video games, he said, are windows on the world and what children see through them affects them just as what they see through other windows. Understanding the psychological processes involved, he said, made it clear that non-violent, electronic media with the right content could have very positive effects on child development.

Professor Donnerstein argued that the internet allows children and adolescents access to almost any form of sexual behaviour, violent content, or advertisement. Unlike past years, this can be done in the privacy of their own room with little parental knowledge. TV, film and video games can be downloaded, viewed and processed. The internet is both passive and active but allows the creation of aggressive images and the acting out of aggressive behaviour. The internet's interactive nature can lead to more arousal and cognitive activity and influences found in traditional media, like media violence, would be facilitated in these circumstances. Professor Donnerstein discussed the types of content of most risk for children and adolescents, and the internet as a vehicle for aggressive behaviour such as cyber-bullying.

Professor Anderson presented the latest meta-analysis of video game violence studies using cross-sectional, experimental and longitudinal designs from the USA, Western Europe, Japan and Australia. Results reveal strong support for the hypothesis that playing violent video games is a causal risk factor for aggression and violence, as well as aggressive cognitions.  There is evidence that playing violent video games increases physiological arousal, aggressive affect, desensitisation and lack of empathy, as well as decreasing pro-social behaviour. Habitual violent video game play has also been linked to attention problems.

The one-day conference in Sydney drew almost 200 people from a wide cross-section of children's professionals, industry representatives, and Federal and State ministers and MPs, regulators, community groups and academics. Attendees came from as far as the USA, South Africa and New Zealand and from all Australian States. The conference also generated strong media interest and coverage. "Young people are experiencing increased exposure to a media environment that has considerable violent, commercialised and s*xualised content," said Dr Warburton. "According to a recent US study, children under 18 experienced an average of 10.75 hours of media exposure per day. All media, whether pro-social or antisocial, influence the way we think and feel - the content is crucial. Understanding the media and the ways in which children interact with it is a first important step towards using media as a positive (and not a negative) influence in child development. It is my hope that the conference, with its outstanding international speakers and the positive energy generated, has helped to inform both those who work with and parent children, and those responsible for policy and practice in this area," he said.


Evidence Based Practice in Early Childhood - One Day Conference - 24 April 2009

"Effective intervention requires models and tools that enable practitioners to make clear connections between the practices they employ and changes in outcomes for children 0-8. Learn about Response to Intervention, a problem-solving process to improve instruction for children in the preschool and early school years, and evidence-based approaches for promoting language and literacy in infants and young children. Workshops will show researchers and practitioners how to use Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDIs) and how to assess and strengthen parent-child interactions."

Thanks to our key note speakers, Professor Carta and Professor Greenwood, directors and senior scientists from the Juniper Gardens Childrens Project, University of Kansas.


Learning about Parenting - August 2008

CFRC's conference Learning about Parenting featured Dr Carol Crill Russell, a researcher from Canada's Invest in Kids Foundation and Professor Cathrine Fowler, Professor in Child and Family Health Nursing at University of Technology Sydney. Presentations across the conference addressed practice and research in

  • Approaches to parent education
  • Parent education provided explicitly, combined with other services and as co-constructed by practitioners and parents
  • Parenting information for specific groups

The finale was a panel discussion of implications for policy in parent education. This conference is of interest to professionals in the fields of health, education and social work and also to anyone working with families and young children.

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