TV generation with a 'green' conscience: Children in the nineties: Marianne Macdonald reports on the results of government research into young people's lives

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Environmental issues seen by children as a problem: by age, 1993

----------------------------------------------------------------- England Percentages 8-10 11-12 13-15 ----------------------------------------------------------------- Local issues Litter 85 81 73 Traffic fumes 76 79 78 Danger to wildlife 79 76 68 Oil/sewage on beach 73 73 71 Factory pollution 72 74 69 Dog mess 74 67 61 Lack of trees/plants 59 65 57 Too much noise 39 30 23 Low-quality drinking water 18 23 23 Global issues Deforestation 90 89 91 Polluted oceans 88 90 93 Damage to ozone 79 89 91 Animal extinction 86 88 84 People not having enough to eat 86 83 83 People not having enough to drink 82 74 79 Global warming 53 77 86 Acid rain 64 66 77 ----------------------------------------------------------------- Source: MORI for Department of the Environment -----------------------------------------------------------------

THE AVERAGE Nineties boy reads Viz and the Sun but worries about global deforestation. He thinks he is above average at school and spends more than two hours a day watching television, a government report reveals today.

The average Nineties girl is addicted to Smash Hits, Big] and Just Seventeen. Her favourite hobby is swimming and her favourite films are Jurassic Park and Home Alone 2. She spends about an hour a day on homework and her favourite toy is Barbie.

She is also less at risk than a boy on the roads. She is six times less likely to be killed or seriously injured while cycling, according to 1992 figures. She is also almost half as likely to be killed or seriously injured in a road accident.

The figures have emerged from a report published today by the Central Statistical Office. Social Focus on Children uses statistics from hundreds of sources to paint an authoritative picture of the crimes children commit, the films they watch, the comics they read and the places they live.

One-third of the 11.8 million children in the UK live in terraced houses and another one-third in semi-detached houses, according to 1992 figures. Eleven per cent live in flats and about one-fifth in detached houses. Four-fifths of children live with two parents, 18 per cent live with a lone mother and 2 per cent with a lone father.

Those with most social status watch the least television, although not by much. Children with fathers classified 'AB' watch 17 hours a week; 'C1' children 20 hours, 'C2' 21 hours and 'DE' 22 hours. Half of children aged seven to 10, and almost seven-tenths of children aged 11 to 14, have a television in their room. Favourite programmes are Neighbours, Coronation Street, Casualty, Maid Marian and Her Merry Men, Grange Hill and Blue Peter.

The favourite magazine of boys aged seven to 10 is Beano, and of girls the same age, Disney Mirror. Smash Hits and Just Seventeen are favourites of 11- to 14-year-old girls, while Viz - marked 'not for sale to children' - heads the list for young male teenagers. More than four-fifths of 11-year-olds and 13- year-olds consider themselves average or above at school.

Boys spend much of their free time playing football, with around half listing it as their main activity, according to the Welsh research published in the report. Half of girls in winter, and two- thirds in summer, go swimming.

Both sexes were anxious about the environment, according to research. Younger children are especially concerned about litter, deforestation, animal extinction and famine. Teenagers also worried about traffic fumes, global warming and acid rain. Just over two- fifths of 11-year-old boys drink alcohol 'a few times a year' and 13 per cent of 11-year-old girls do so. By 15, 36 per cent of boys drink at least once a week, as do 30 per cent of girls. Similarly 13 per cent of 11-year-olds have tried smoking and 2 per cent 'used to smoke'.

Despite a perceived increase in juvenile crime, the report suggests the opposite - a two-fifths decline in the number of 10- to 16-year-old boys found guilty of a crime or cautioned between 1981 and 1992, down from 178,800 to 108,800.

But children are now more likely to become victims of crime. In 1983, there were 22 offences of abandoning a child aged under two recorded by police; in 1992 it had almost doubled to 40. In the same period, child abduction offences increased from 45 to 206. Recorded offences of unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under 16 declined from 2,773 to 1,563, but offences of gross indecency with a child went up by 645 to 1,158.

The report discloses other uncomfortable statistics. The most common congenital malformations are foot deformities, affecting 13 out of every 10,000 babies. Eight babies born in every 10,000 had a cleft lip, 7 in 10,000 had Down's syndrome and 4 in 10,000 a cleft palate.

Social Focus on Children; from the Central Statistical Office; Great George Street, London SW1P 3AQ; pounds 25.

Leading article, page 9

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