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Children's geographies is the branch of human geography which deals with the study of places and spaces of children's lives, characterised experientially, politically and ethically.
Ever since the cultural turn in geography, there has been recognition that society is not homogenous but heterogeneous. It is characterized by diversity, differences and subjectivities. While feminist geographers had been able to strengthen the need for examination of gender, class and race as issues affecting women, 'children' as an umbrella term encompassing children, teenagers, youths and young people, which are still relatively missing a 'frame of reference' in the complexities of 'geographies'. In the act of theorizing children and their geographies, the ways of doing research and the assumed ontological realities often "frame 'children' and 'adults' in ways that impose a bi-polar, hierarchical, and developmental model". This reproduces and enforces the hegemony of adult-centered discourses of children within knowledge production. Children's geographies has developed in academic human geography since the beginning of the 1990s, although there were notable studies in the area before that date. The earliest work done on children's geographies largely can be traced to William Bunge's work on spatial oppression of children in Detroit and Toronto where children are deemed as the ones who suffer the most under an oppressing adult framework of social, cultural and political forces controlling the urban built environment.
This development emerged from the realisation that previously human geography had largely ignored the everyday lives of children, who (obviously) form a significant section of society, and who have specific needs and capacities, and who may experience the world in very different ways. Thus children's geographies can in part be seen in parallel to an interest in gender in geography and feminist geography in so much as their starting points were the gender blindness of mainstream academic geography.
Children's geographies rests on the idea that children as a social group share certain characteristics which are experientially, politically and ethically significant and which are worthy of study. The pluralisation in the title is intended to imply that children's lives will be markedly different in differing times and places and in differing circumstances such as gender, family, and class.The current developments in children's geographies are attempting to link the frame of analysing children's geographies to one that requires multiple perspectives and the willingness to acknowledge the 'multiplicity' of their geographies.
Children's geographies is sometimes coupled with, and yet distinguished from the geographies of childhood. The former has an interest in the everyday lives of children; the latter has an interest in how (adult) society conceives of the very idea of childhood and how this impinges on children's lives in many ways. This includes imaginations about the nature of children and the related (spatial) implications.
Children’s geographies can be observed through the various lenses provided by focii, thus the plurality inspired by post-modern and post-structural social geographers (Panelli, 2009). These focii include, but are not limited to: the history of its emergence (key authors and texts), the nature of the child (geographical concepts, family contexts, society contexts, gender variation, aged-based variation, cultural variation), children in the environment (home, school, play, neighbourhood, street, city, country, landscapes of consumption, cyberspace), designing environments for children (children as planners, utopian visions), environmental hazards (traffic, health and environment, accidents), indirect experience of place (not medium specific, literature, T.V. and cyberspace), social issues (children’s fears, parent’s fears for their children, poverty and deprivation, work, migration, social hazards, crime and deviance), citizenship and agency (environmental action, local politics, interest in the environment), and children’s geographical knowledge (environmental cognition, understanding the physical environment) (McKendrick, 2000). Also, the methodologies of researching children's worlds and the ethics of doing so has been distinguished by the otherness of childhood.
There is now a Journal of Children's Geographies which will give readers a good idea of the growing range of issues, theories and methodologies of this developing and vibrant sub-discipline. Another relevant journal is Children, Youth and Environments, published as an interdisciplinary tri-annual with a worldwide readership.
Children In The Environment
Since the age range assumed to constitute as childhood is quite vague within the cumulative research of children’s geographies it is evident the multitude of environments they experience will be quite broad. The array of spaces and places experienced by children includes, but are not restricted to, homes, schools, playgrounds, neighbourhoods, streets, cities, countries, landscapes of consumption, and cyberspace. As environment has been noted by a multitude of social geographers to entail a socio-spatial aspect, it is important to note that over time the recognition of the multiplicity of the term “environment” has both diverged and converged as social geography has evolved (Valentine, 2001; Bowlby, 2001).
Children at School
Although schools are such a relatively large institution in society, it has been noted that this environment has received little recognition in comparison to institutions of health (Collins and Coleman, 2008). Collins and Coleman also note the centrality of schools in everyday life as they are “found in almost every urban and suburban neighbourhood” and most children experience a considerable time within this environment in their day-to-day lives. The role of this environment in a child’s life is pivotal to their development, especially in respects to the inclusionary and exclusionary processes of society experienced firsthand in schools (MacCrae, Maguire and Milbourne, 2002). The manifestation of social exclusion as bullying is an inter-personal socio-spatial aspect whose implications have been extensively researched both within school boundaries and how it is enabled by technology (Olweus and Limber, 2010; Black, Washington, Trent, Harner and Pollock, 2009). School, therefore, is not only a place where children learn quantifiable subjects, but also a learning ground of life interaction skills needed later on.
As An Institution
Although schools are a relatively large institution in society, it has been noted that this environment has received little recognition in comparison to institutions of health (Collins and Coleman, 2008). Collins and Coleman also note the centrality of schools in everyday life as they are “found in almost every urban and suburban neighbourhood” and most children experience a considerable time within this environment in their day-to-day lives. The implications of home schooling have largely been a field of assumptions, taking after common myths (Romanowki, 2010). The variance between public and private sector institutions and the implications of social status of children within the school community has also been a contentious field (Nissan and Carter, 2010).
Relevance to Social Interactions
As children grow they look to the influential adults in their lives for guidance (parents, caregivers and teachers). Most researchers and adults alike agree that communication is key to healthy child development across all modal environments, especially within schools (Lasky, 2000; Hargreaves, 2000; Hargreaves and Fullan, 1998; Hargreaves and Lasky, 2004). Lasky's focus remains on the cultural and emotional dynamic between teachers and the parents of their students. Where as Hargreaves continuously exemplifies through his data the significant improvement in child performance at school because of an equal power-play communication between teachers and parents/caregivers. Where there may be a lack of influential adults, children may look to older age groups within the school environment to observe acceptable behaviours and attention seeking behaviours. Research has begun to display the components of the “high quality experience” provided by controlled school-based mentoring relationships (Ahrens et al. 2011). However, other research disputes that the experience is as helpful as it claims to be, suggesting child-mentoring situations often fall short or are only temporarily beneficial (Spencer, 2007; Pryce, 2012). Pryce’s research highlights the attunement of the mentor to the other’s needs highly dictates the beneficial nature of the mentor relationship.
Relevance of Technology
The introduction of technology into children’s lives has provided a new platform upon which the school environment is no longer contained within a space. The place’s previous temporal and geographical constrictions have been mobilized by the used of the Internet. The outcomes of this mobilization have both been constructive and destructive in the availability of material to learning children (Sancho, 2004) and more extrapersonal interactions among children. The educational benefit of I.C.T. (Interactive Computer Technology) in the classroom has been a subject supported by various researchers (Aviram and Talmi, 2004).
Relevance to the Creation of Social Identities
The school is an institution in which children observe one another and experiment continuously with their self-image (Hernandez, 2004). Hernandez’s research recognized a need to recognize children as individuals, and to incorporate their “personal maps” into the educational process, so the gap between the school environment and external environment does not elevate dangerously. The centrality of schools to social geography is pivotal. Public institutions in Canada and the USA were defined as “nation-building institutions, which sought to create common citizens from ethnically, linguistically and religiously diverse populations” (Moore, 2000; Sweet, 1997). The connection between nation-building and public education has held the view that schools shape the knowledge and identities of children (Collins and Coleman, 2008). Whether the connection is seen to create negative, destructive social norms or positive, construction of progressive values is dependent “on one’s broader political/moral compass” (Collins, 2006; Hunter 1991).
- Children's culture
- Children's street culture
- Childhood Studies
- Cultural geography
- Feminist geography
- , Panelli, 2009. Approaches to Human Geography.
- , McKendrick, 2000. The Geography of Children - An Annotated Bibliography.
- Journal of Children's Geographies
- CYE Journal
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- , Collins and Coleman, 2008. Social Geographies of Education: Looking Within, and Beyond, School Boundaries.
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- , Olweus and Limber, 2010. Bullying in school: evaluation and dissemination of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.
- , Black, Washington, Trent, Harner and Pollock, 2009. Translating the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program Into Real-World Practice.
- , Romanowski, 2010. Revisiting the Common Myths About Homeschooling.
- , Nissan and Carter, 2010. Social Identity and Schooling Idequality.
- , Lasky, 2000. The Cultural and Emotional Politics of Teacher-Parent Interactions.
- , Hargreaves, 2000. Professionals and Parents: Personal Adversaries or Public Allies?
- , Pryce, 2012. Mentor Attunement: An Approach to Successful School-based Mentoring Relationships.
- , Virtual Geographies of Educational Change: The More Complex the Problems the Simpler the Answers.
- , Hernandez, 2004. Mapping Visual Cultural Narratives to Explore Adolescents' Identities.