Children from different cultures and backgrounds are being brought closer together, thanks to a new research project exploring the need for digital media during the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr Indrani Lahiri, senior lecturer in Media and Communication at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), has launched a virtual community on Facebook, to enable children to express themselves through artwork and stories.
Her aim is to understand how a digital space can be used to build a sense of community between people from all walks of life during a global crisis.
“Children from different backgrounds, religions and nationalities are sharing their creativity with one another, demonstrating the connection between arts, media and mental wellness during this time,” she said.
“We live in multicultural societies but we do not always engage in intercultural communications. This research is proving that digital technology can have intercultural benefits.”
Dr Lahiri has been interviewing families to see how their experiences using the platform has helped them cope and connect during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“By utilising the digital public sphere, children have a dedicated place to co-create and share their ideas with those they might not usually interact with,” said Dr Lahiri. “It also builds up community support for parents.”
Dr Indrani Lahiri
For the research, Dr Lahiri has brought Celebrate Our Similarities (COS) on board, an ambitious project that aims to provide an unbiased open platform to explore shared human priorities and needs in the diverse city of Leicester, as well as Leicestershire and Rutland.
COS, for which Dr Lahiri is an academic consultant, was set up in 2018 with a view to organise activities and promote actions, whilst campaigning for issues and promoting mental wellbeing and personal peace.
Building on the work she is already doing, Dr Lahiri’s research will be used to further develop the COS project, with the aim of registering the organisation as a CIC (Community Interest Company).
Kamla Pattni, founder of COS, said: “This initiative has shown that when faced with a common issue, we all come together and want to protect and give our kids an outlet.
“It has helped both the kids who participate and their parents – including some frontline workers who said this initiative has helped them ‘face’ their children without their angst showing on their faces after a very hard day.”
Dr Tina Dutta Gupta is one of the parents who has been actively contributing to the virtual community.
She said: “My daughter is a very active child who likes to go to school, play with friends in their houses or at the park and like all other kids enjoys going to her swimming, dance, singing and drama lessons. At the blink of an eye our children’s whole lives changed.
“The mental wellbeing of the kids is very important in this difficult time. So initially I started looking after my daughter's mental wellbeing by encouraging her to do whatever she enjoyed staying safe at home rather than forcing her to do home learning which school has been providing regularly.
Children are encouraged to share their creativity
“She missed her school friends, playing and reading stories with them, so I recorded a few of her storytelling performances and posted them on different forms of social media.
“I also encouraged her to celebrate one of her good school friend's birthday virtually - she wrote a song and a quiz, made a card, sang and also did a few activities for the birthday boy which brought big smiles to him and his family because they never imagined his birthday would be of so much fun during this pandemic.”
To visit Dr Lahiri’s ‘Children Stories in times of Corona’ Facebook page, click here. For more information about the COS project, click here.
Posted on Tuesday 9th June 2020