Children today live in a dynamic, challenging world of rapid processes of change. This report presents a comprehensive, up-to-date picture of various key areas affecting the lives of children age 6-11 in Israel. The report presents the perspectives of children, parents, teachers, and professionals. In addition, it examines the differences among children by age and gender, and between Jewish and Arab children.
In order to present the broadest picture possible, we identified and analyzed data from a range of surveys conducted in Israel in recent years and from administrative sources.
In many of the studies, a positive picture emerges about the status of most children in this age group. For example, in 2014, about 75% of fifth and sixth-graders reported a positive perception of the atmosphere in class and the social relationships in the school. Over 80% of second-, fourth- and sixth-graders reported in 2013/14 that they completely agreed or agreed to a large extent that they enjoyed time with their families and that their parents were fair towards them, listened to them and paid attention to what they said.
Despite efforts by the Ministry of Education and other ministries that have led to an improvement with regard to exposure to violence, in 2013, a significant percentage of children in fourth to sixth grades reported being victims of severe (11%) or moderate (24%) physical violence, and social violence (24%).
The study findings confirmed the impression of professionals in the field that certain problems that were characteristic of adolescents now occur at a younger age. For example, 5% percent of sixth graders reported that they smoked cigarettes at least once a week (in 2011), and 9% experimented with alcoholic drinks (other than wine, in 2013).
The report indicates extensive concern among parents about the new risks that have emerged from exposure to the Internet. In 2011, over 80% of parents of children age 6-12 reported that they were afraid their children would be exposed to unsuitable contents or to harassment. About 50% of the parents of 9-12-year-olds reported feeling that their children were protected to a low-to-medium extent from the dangers of the Internet. Reports of children in 4th to 6th grades in 2013 revealed that almost 10% had been victims of violence via digital communications, e.g., receipt of insulting or offensive messages or unwanted sharing of personal photos by another student.
In many areas, the study found that the percentage of children reporting worrying situations was higher among boys than among girls. This was expressed in risk behaviors, such as violence, smoking and drinking alcohol, and in measures about school life, such as general feelings about school, lack of motivation to study, and relationships with the school staff. The findings also indicate a number of problems that were more prevalent among Arab students than Jewish students, particularly exposure to various forms of violence, smoking, non-participation in afterschool activity programs, and complex risk situations resulting from multiple problems.
Looking at the range of risk factors together, it was found that in 2014, 18% of all students between the ages 6-11 in localities in the National Program for Children and Youth at Risk were identified as being at risk.
An important underlying factor, and important in and of itself, are the high rates of poverty among children. In 2013, 33% of children in Israel age 6-11 were living below the national poverty line.
The study was commissioned by, and funded with the assistance of, JDC-Israel-Ashalim. The findings have been presented to several inter-ministerial forums and are serving the basis of focused efforts to develop policies and programs for the children and their parents. A supplementary report on the community services provided to children aged 6-11 and their families will be published shortly.