Innovative project uses fun digital game to reveal children’s attitudes towards the law

Posted by ap507 at Jul 01, 2015 12:20 PM |
University of Leicester academics work with Leicestershire primary schools to research children’s understanding of the law

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 1 July 2015

•     Innovative research project first of its kind

•     Explores children’s understanding and opinions on issues such as gender equality, bullying, consumer rights and duty of care

•     Researchers hope to use results to influence government policy in these areas

“One of the most important of children’s rights is the right to be asked about things that are important in their lives, and that’s what we’re doing here.”

- Dr Elee Kirk, Research Associate in the School of Law, University of Leicester

Photo/ media opportunity: To film/ photograph/ record the sessions 11-12pm and 1-2pm. Posed photographs can be taken between 12-1pm, on Tuesday 7 July 2015, Church Hill CofE Junior School, Thurmaston, Leicester, LE4 8DE.

Contact pressoffice@le.ac.uk to request images.

A new project using a fun digital game aims to find out what primary school children really know and think about the law and their rights.

The project, ‘Law in Children’s Lives’, is led by Dr Dawn Watkins in the University of Leicester’s School of Law and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Using a specially-designed digital game on a tablet, the innovative research tool is gaining insights into children’s understandings of the law in their everyday lives. The game was designed with the help of children from three Leicestershire primary schools.

The research team has visited a further eight Leicestershire primary schools where classes of children aged 8 - 11 were provided with tablets, complete with headsets and microphones to record their views.

The game, ‘Adventures with Lex’, involves a cartoon alien called Lex coming to Earth and asking the children to show him their lives. It takes place in four familiar worlds – a school, a park, a shop, and a friend’s house.

The children are shown several scenarios, including a woman hitting her child in public, a friend being left home alone, and a dilapidated playground. They are asked questions such as ‘who is responsible?’, ‘is this ok?’ or ‘what can you do?’

The alien, Lex, then asks the children to explain the reasoning behind their choices out loud, which is recorded by the tablet.

Dr Watkins, project lead said: “We had to find a research method that made sense to the children, and that gave us insights into their own individual perspectives and decision-making.

“The everyday situations featured in the game include: having a say in and out of school; gender equality; consumer rights; being bullied; smacking; being left home alone; and being injured or having possessions damaged by another person.

“Although the subject is serious, it’s been a huge amount of fun for the children who take part. It’s really brilliant to see a whole class of children absorbed in their games and chatting away to Lex the alien.”

The project came about following a pilot study by Dr Watkins, where she took undergraduate Law students into St Peter’s Primary Academy in Market Bosworth to carry out a mock trial of the fairy tale character Jack, from the story ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’.

She found that the children tended to have a negative and fearful view of the law, rather than seeing it as something that was there to help them.

Dr Elee Kirk, Research Associate in the School of Law, said: “Children’s negative view of law may not initially be seen as a problem, as most children have support from their parents. But we need to remember the children who cannot depend on parents for guidance, or who have parents who abuse their authority, for example the case of five-year-old Daniel Pelka, whose parents starved him and beat him to death.

“It is vital that these children understand that the law is there to protect them. On paper, it looks like children are very well protected by the law. This year saw the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by the UK since 1991. However, in reality, many of these rights tend not to materialise. One of the most important of children’s rights is the right to be asked about things that are important in their lives, and that’s what we’re doing here.”

Headteacher of St Peter’s Primary Academy in Market Bosworth, Ralph Wood, said of the project: “The Law in Children's Lives project has provided a superb opportunity for pupils at our academy to reflect upon their legal rights and responsibilities via a game that is both innovative and fun. The Rule of Law is fundamental to British values and to positive social, moral and cultural attitudes, so we’re very grateful to the University of Leicester’s Law Department for working with our children to develop a tablet game that takes abstract legal concepts and makes them clear and relevant to young learners in our digital age.”

The project has received positive feedback from the children who have played the game including, “It was fun because you got to give your own opinion”, and “I liked that you could talk to the tablet and I can help Lex with the law.”

The team hope to have the results of the project in early 2016 and are looking to push out a second phase of the project to work with smaller groups of especially vulnerable children.

Dr Watkins added: “At the end of this project we will have gathered children’s views on issues such as the amount of power they have in school, who is legally allowed to hit children, at what age a child should be left alone at home and at what age a child can look after another child.  Drawing directly on this information, we will be able to influence government policy in these and other areas.”

Dr Watkins added: “In the longer term, we plan to produce an educational game that can be downloaded by children to help them learn about where they stand with regard to the law and their rights.”

The team worked with gaming company Enigma, to produce ‘Adventures with Lex’.

The project website is www.le.ac.uk/licl

Follow the project on Twitter: @LICL_lex (https://twitter.com/LICL_Lex).

Ends

Notes to editors:

For more information contact:

Dr Dawn Watkins dew4@le.ac.uk

Dr Elee Kirk ek170@le.ac.uk

The three Leicestershire schools involved in the game design were St Peter's C of E Primary Academy, Market Bosworth; Westfield Junior School, Hinckley; and Humberstone Junior Academy, Leicester.

About the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government. In 2015 it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

About ESRC Transformative Research Grants

The ESRC’s Transformative Research funding aims to provide a stimulus for genuinely transformative and ground-breaking research ideas at the frontiers of social sciences, enabling research which challenges current thinking to be supported and developed. Transformative research is regarded as involving pioneering theoretical and methodological innovation, the novel application of theory and methods in new contexts, and/or research based on the engagement of unusual disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives. While it can often be seen as high risk, it provides the possibility of high reward or research that is carried out with the expectation that it will produce a broad base of knowledge and exciting new insights.

About Enigma

Enigma Interactive is an award winning digital development agency. Known for their creative and innovative approach, they deliver effective results for their clients who rate them in the top 5 agencies in the UK. Enigma are design and build specialists and have created interactives for clients including the BBC, Open University, RSPCA, Goldsmiths University of London and Leeds Museums and Galleries.

To find out more about Enigma email Marketing Manager Ian Birtwistle ianb@enigma-interactive.co.uk visit www.enigma-interactive.co.uk

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