Young voices: More and more children are coming forward as opinion makers

Today, the art of public speaking among children is increasingly becoming relevant with Ted talk clubs, schools, and edtech institutions amplifying their voices

File photo of Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg
File photo of Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg

When children become vocal about their life choices and voice their opinion, who would be a good example to quote? Not one, but many. Eco-warrior Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, Manipur-based Licypriya Kangujam, Canada-based Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Uganda-based Vanessa Nakate and many more have had a raging impact on the world for their countless efforts and actions on climate change. Rather than being lauded, they’re reproached over controversies and their voices remain unheard. For instance, Thunberg started an international movement to fight climate change beginning in 2018 with “School strike for climate” and began skipping school on Fridays and protesting outside the Swedish Parliament. Her straightforward speaking manner demands immediate action to the grave climate crisis.

Sharp eloquence and expression are increasingly becoming imperative to navigate personal and professional spaces in today’s world. And these young speakers are becoming future-ready by publicly speaking out their mind through TED talks. Nine-year-old Amy Laishram’s TED talk with Camp K12 “Always be prepared for inspiration” comes from her belief that inspiration can come from anywhere. She was motivated to deliver a TED talk after listening to Charlie Chaplin’s speech from the film The Great Dictator.

Today, the art of public speaking among children is increasingly becoming relevant with Ted talk clubs, schools, and edtech institutions that amplify their voices around the world. “Some activities are as ubiquitous and essential for children today as verbal and spoken communication, and yet the fear of public speaking ranks as the number one fear worldwide, even higher than the fear of death. Teamwork, collaboration, relationship building, persuasion and argumentation—each rely on our ability to speak confidently in public. Even life outcomes—landing the right college admissions, acing interviews to land the right jobs, earning the respect of coworkers and growing quickly within an organisation—benefit from strong communication skills,” says Anshul Bhagi, founder, Camp K12, an edtechstartup that has started a live public platform for young students aged 8 to 13 years from India, the Middle-east, and Southeast Asia to share their ideas at TED-Ed Student Talks.

Edtech startups are actively engaging children in big business opportunities. Like Edtech startup PlanetSpark has introduced Spark Tank, a spin-off of Shark Tank exclusively for children under 17 years. Here, students present their million-dollar ideas to bag investment from marquee investors as part of the jury. The jury comprises esteemed business personalities, including the marquee angel investor Vikas Kuthiala, who holds leading companies like Wow Momo, Bijnis, Instasafe and Box8, among others, in his investment portfolio. In order to instill confidence and inculcate an entrepreneurial spirit, multiple children stand a chance to raise funds from the investors, via this competition as the selected idea(s) can receive a grant from PlanetSpark. “This holistic approach is not restricted to training sessions but its practical application. It’s a great opportunity to enable and groom kids who genuinely have the spark to become the leaders of tomorrow,” says Maneesh Dhooper, co-founder of PlanetSpark.

If a 17-year old can win at the Olympics, Grand Prix tennis tournaments and chess, why not encourage champion entrepreneurs to start early? Angel investor and jury member of Spark Tank Vikas Kuthiala feels, “It can be a global platform to give young achievers an opportunity to showcase entrepreneurial ideas to the world.”

So is there a mental pressure or is there really a need to speak at such a tender age? Experts feel this can be both inspirational and motivational depending on the interest of the child. “The effect of ted talks depends on the maturity level of the brain. In young minds, it can be beneficial if it is taken in an inspirational and in a proper way after processing it properly,” says Dr Sandeep Vohra, a psychiatrist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, adding the need to do so at such a tender age is because “nowadays, the digital media has become the primary information source for the young minds. The previous generations due to the joint family system had some elders to channelise their thought process and motivate the children, which now due to nuclear families is missing and it has become difficult for such communication to take place in proper manner”.

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