Alliance Assembly Education Spokeswoman Eileen Bell has said that research published today by the Community Relations Council suggests that parents have an enormous responsibility when it comes to teaching their children attitudes about others.
The Too Young to Notice? Report claims that children as young as three can spot symbols as being either loyalist or republican.
The Alliance Deputy Leader said: “I have worked with pre-school playgroups in the past, and know how quickly children are to pick up on and adopt parents and other adults’ attitudes. If you show something symbolic – such as a loyalist or republican flag – to a child, they are very quick to associate it as something ‘good’ or ‘bad’, depending on how it is presented.”
“I believe parents in particular, but also teachers and others in regular contact with young children, have an enormous responsibility to be careful about what they say and how they present events and symbols to children.”
“Sectarianism is not something people are born with – it is something that is learned. We all need to exercise care over how our attitudes come across to young children because they cannot be as questioning as older children, and are more likely to accept certain opinions as fact.”
“Parents have a duty to ask themselves: ‘Am I being balanced or one-sided? Am I telling my child the whole story, or just part of it?'”
Mrs Bell added: “The report recommends encouraging children to experience other cultures from a very early age, and to understand that there are negative effects of sectarian prejudices. I believe that integrated education plays a major role in exploding sectarian stereotypes, as it gives children the opportunity to see that certain prejudices are not justified, and that children from different backgrounds have much in common.”