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The thoughts and views of the team of peace builders here at the Peace Centre

Blog: Sticks and stones can break your bones but…

Before you read this blog you need to make a decision. You need to decide whether you want to read an explicit statement made by...

Before you read this blog you need to make a decision. You need to decide whether you want to read an explicit statement made by a six-year-old boy. Because, as you will see, words can hurt and they do. A few weeks ago, a colleague from the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Foundation was delivering one of our programmes. During the programme she spent time talking with young children, those at key stage one, starting out on their education, how people are always different from each other. She showed some material that demonstrated this, where people had built physical walls to divide different communities. And, she asked the children what they would do if they met somebody who is different to them – that is someone who could be considered as the other. The answer a six-year-old boy gave was - and here you need to decide whether to read on or not and whether you can deal with the next statement - “I would blow their hand off with a grenade.” Just pause for a moment. Just reflect. This was a six-year-old, not in some inner-city school as stereotypes may dictate, but in a leafy suburb in a well-to-do area The lesson moved on to look at why and how such of a view was being formed and this may not surprise you. Our world of modern technology, including gaming and social media, and access to the World Wide Web, has brought unprecedented information to many people, including young children. When questioned further, we found another major surprise.  That is the number of children who are watching television programmes that we would normally class as being after the watershed. The fact that six-year-olds are watching programs like BBC’s Bodyguard, one of the biggest TV experiences of the year, and experiencing prolonged and explicit violence, including terrorism, aspects of violent extremism and simulated sex involving fictional senior politicians, is something we all need to pause and think about.  With so much information available, the sheer number of words and, often words that cause harm, that are reaching children is phenomenal. The ability of young children to absorb such information and words, the process them all, and apply critical thinking to deal with such material, is being sorely tested.  The impact on their knowledge and wisdom is not fully quantified, but for some could it be the start of a path that may lead to radicalisation and even violent extremism.  I refer you to the solution our six-year-old gave.  Playful naivety or something that could lead to something far more sinister? We, at the Peace Foundation, believe that words matter, and over the past few weeks we have been working with survivors of terror and violent conflict to understand the impact words used by the media and those in public life, has on them, and also the impact the words are having on those that may use violence to harm others. It is a frightening and daunting picture. And we have...