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Monday 19 August 2019

Kids would now rather be influencers than heroes - says 'The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds' psychologist

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Stock photo

Beverley Rouse

Children are increasingly aspiring to have careers where they think about themselves rather than about other people, according to The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds psychologist Sam Wass.

"It used to be that the popular jobs were the old fashioned jobs, police officer, firefighter. Now they all want to be influencers, YouTubers," he said.

"All these jobs are fundamentally inward-looking - 'how do I make my own life interesting to other people?'"

Wass said people can start to worry if they are thinking about "projecting this perfect image", while the reality is quite different.

"Deep down you are not confident in yourself so it becomes much more important to you what other people think of you.

"If you are properly confident deep down, it doesn't matter what other people think of you," said Wass, who appeared on the Channel 4 show which looked at the behaviour and emotions of four-, five- and six-year-olds.

"The jobs that are getting less popular are 'It's not about me, it's about helping other people'. The idea 'there's nothing interesting about me, it's all about other people'.

"These types of hero roles where it's about making sacrifices for others are the jobs that are getting less popular.

"These are the type of jobs we will always need. We will always need people who are prepared to make sacrifices for other people."

Speaking at a Lego City Hero Academy event in central London, Wass - who is based at the University of East London - said younger children think of a hero as someone who's infinitely strong and infinitely powerful".

"The older kids realise that nobody is infinitely strong and people work really hard to get stronger, people make sacrifices," he said.

"Their heroes might be their parents who have made sacrifices or their friend who has helped them."

He said heroism can be self-sacrifice: "It can be everyday mundane sacrifices that you make for other people."

The Lego City Hero Academy campaign is focusing on the police and fire services, encouraging children to become heroes in their own city while inspiring them to aspire to become real-life heroes in future.

Research for the campaign found becoming a YouTuber was the top future career choice for eight-to-12-year-olds (20%) while only 4% of the same age group aspired to be a police officer or firefighter.

Almost half (45.8%) of children aged eight-to-12 said making lots of money was a dream job.

Wass said children learn through play and Lego allows them to try things out and think about how they would feel in different situations.

"Children are experimenting. 'What goes here?' They do the same type of experiments in an emotional way. They dip their toe into different stories, act out a little scene.

"They try out different emotions. 'What would it feel like if I was this character?' But in a situation that's safe and in their control."

He said younger children tend to see things as black or white: "Someone's either right or wrong."

Asked if an act would always be right or would just be right in some situations, Wass said younger children would usually see something as always right or always wrong.

"Older children are more likely to say someone is part good and part bad," he said.

Wass said the world can feel very divided at the moment, especially in regard to Brexit: "It's like a young child's view of the world. They don't see other people's side of things."

PA Media

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