According to a new study, many Australian children live in households with more modern comforts and have more material belongings than ever before.
The Australian Child Wellbeing Project was conducted by researchers from Flinders University, the University of New South Wales and the Australian Council for Educational Research, surveying 5,440 students aged eight to 14 from 180 Australian public and private schools.
The project found that the majority of today’s generation are much better off materially than previous ones, with 86 per cent of Year 8 students having their own bedrooms, an iPod and access to pocket money.
By Year 8, 82 per cent of students own a mobile phone, and 85 per cent went on holidays once a year with their families and could afford school camps. Almost all families of Year 8 children – 98 per cent – own a computer, while 72 per centown two.
If you think that is a far cry from the life you had as a kid, you’re probably right. If you remember fighting over using the bathroom with your siblings or having to hand-wash the dishes, that’s changed for many of today’s kids too. Half of the homes of older children had two bathrooms and three-quarters had a dishwasher.
However, things aren’t great for all Australian kids. According to the report, Australia has a higher proportion of children living in poverty compared to the OECD’s best-performing nations, and it hasn’t improved in recent years.
In fact, heartbreakingly, the report found that one in 30 – almost a child in every single Australian classroom – goes to bed hungry nearly every day.
Participants who reported going hungry to bed or to school were much less likely to report that they were satisfied at school, had a supportive relationship with their teacher or that their performance at school was good compared with their peers. They were also more likely to report being bullied.
One in 10 Australian children are missing school at least once a week, and almost one in six say they’ve been bullied.
The project found that Australian girls feel more pressure at school compared to their international peers, with 23 per cent of 13 and 14 year olds reporting “a lot” of school pressure – the highest of 24 countries including the US, Canada and Spain.
Fifteen per cent of Australian boys of the same age reported they felt a lot of school pressure, ranking sixth behind Turkey, Spain, Slovenia, Italy and the US.
Australian kids are also leading increasingly complex lives. Up to 10 per cent of children in blended families regularly split their sleeping arrangements between two different homes.
The University of New South Wales’ Dr Jennifer Skattebol, a Chief Investigator on the project, said all young people had identified their families as their most important resource.
“Young people want their families to be adequately supported to provide secure, safe environments for them to grow up in,” she said.
“Our study shows that young people with strong support networks tend to report that they have ‘a good life’ even in conditions of economic disadvantage and marginalisation.”