Life on the Rock tells the life stories of 21 children and young people, aged from 9-18, in Jersey. In line with her mandate, the Children’s Commissioner wanted children’s views to be central in the development of the study, and so it employs a unique children’s rights-based methodology developed at the Centre for Children’s Rights, Queen’s University Belfast.
Life on the Rock for many children in Jersey, like 10-year old Joshua living on the west of the island, means life in a beautiful place, in a comfortable home within easy reach of a beach.
Leisure Time & Activity
Leisure activities were a strong feature in children’s accounts as they spoke of the importance of varied hobbies, sports and ways of spending time with their friends.
Bullying was an issue that was raised by many children. Charlotte, who moved to Jersey when she was 14, described how she and her friends, who included her sister, were considered different at school.
Victoria, who is 10 and living in the west of the island, lives really near to her school 'which is really fun cause we can walk to school, cycle to school in the morning. In the car it takes one minute, walking it takes like 5 minutes.'
Children described experiences with a range of medical and related professionals, a number recounting the availability of free healthcare, ease of access and treatment they were happy with. Sophie, aged 16, noted, however, that engagement with health services was often to seek treatment or support for an established issue rather than in the form of prevention.
Outside of health concerns as explored in the previous section, the struggles faced by children and young people in Jersey for which they sought support were varied, including bullying at school, coping with family illness and bereavement, violence within the home, learning difficulties as well as mental health issues which had not been sufficiently addressed through health services. Formal and informal support systems emerged as a crucial aspect of young people’s experiences in Jersey.
Getting an Education
Children’s experiences of school and education in Jersey is, for many, a positive aspect of Life on the Rock because they are, like Anna (16), 'constantly surrounded by young people and you’re there with all your friends'. For Victoria (10), this positive experience was encapsulated by 'everyone really wants you to do well and to learn here'. Jackson (14), who was a wheelchair user, liked the environment because if he 'dropped something, quite a lot of people would pick it up'. Yet, these positive experiences of inclusivity were not the case for all children in Jersey.
Social Media & Online Life
Many children and young people participated in their social lives partially online. Some young people, like Jackson, played video games with their friends online. Social media was also a means of personal expression. Max didn’t have the confidence to 'tell my parents' that he was gay, so he came out on Instagram, knowing that his family would see his post; others, like Sophie, used it for her photography hobby. Overwhelmingly, however, social media was a means to stay in touch with friends.
Money & Employment
Whether or not families were well off, young people enjoyed the autonomy of having their own paid employment. Four of the young people had secured part time jobs while still attending school, mostly in the retail and customer service sectors. Employment was viewed as a worthy use of time and something that could keep older youth occupied when there was not much else to do on the island for their age group – young participants, however, noted limited opportunities.
Many children’s life stories included accounts of close relationships, with family life filled with happy memories of quality time with parents and siblings, both in their daily routines on the island and in many family holidays, sometimes to quite exotic places. A number of children described a 'really good relationship' (Anna, 16) with caring parents who would 'always help me with anything' (Victoria, 10), to whom they could 'tell everything' and with whom they 'felt safe' (Freya, 10). A number of children told stories of parental separation, the formation of new families and acquiring step-parents, brothers and sisters. Most children continued to have contact with the parent no longer living at home, others not wanting continued contact due to family conflict.
Children not only have diverse lives and experiences, but they also have diverse hopes and aspirations. For some, the plan is to stay in Jersey. For others, it is to go for education and come back to raise a family. And for a few, it is to never return. Their future plans in some respects reflect their past and current experiences of Life on the Rock.
Traversing young people’s experiences of Life on the Rock, emerged the theme of respect. Young people’s experiences of life in Jersey demonstrated both respect and disrespect from both adults and their peers. As an underpinning value of human rights, and therefore of children’s rights, this theme was sometimes referenced explicitly, but frequently transpired implicitly in young people’s experiences as one which pervaded their relationships.
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