NEW YORK Education, food and the environment are top concerns for children around the globe, and particularly for youngsters growing up in developing countries, according to an international poll released on Tuesday.
Half of children, aged 10 to 12, in emerging nations who were questioned in the Small Voices, Big Dreams survey cited education, followed by food, clothing and shelter as the areas they would focus on as leader of their nation to improve children's lives.
"We're always surprised and inspired to see how much emphasis children in developing countries put on education," said Steven Stirling, executive vice president of ChildFund International, a children's advocacy non-profit formerly known as the Christian Children's Fund.
"It shows the depth of maturity of children, who clearly understand the connection between education and changing their worlds for the better," he added in an interview.
Providing food, clothing and shelter was the top response given by children from developed nations, and the environment and was a concern for everyone.
The findings are based on online interviews with 6,204 children from 47 nations in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe. The children were also asked about their aspirations, experiences with disasters and environmental concerns and priorities.
Although one third or more of children in developing countries had experienced natural disasters such as floods, drought or fires, pollution was a bigger worry for them.
Children in poorer nations worried about global warming but youngsters in rich countries did not list it as a concern.
Sterling suggested that global warming might be less of a worry in richer nations because children in developing countries are experiencing more natural disasters that have a greater, negative impact.
"Their ideas for environmental solutions were encouraging: across the world, nearly half of children said they'd either plant more trees, build additional green spaces or decrease littering to help improve the planet," he said.
"Complex social problems affecting children are better addressed if children are part of the solution," he added.
Children from developing nations also differed sharply with those from developed nations when it came to career aspirations.
More than half of children in developing countries said they wanted to be a teacher or healthcare professional, while those in developed countries, whom Stirling noted often had the luxury of choosing a career, wanted to be a professional athlete.
But when asked, "What are you most afraid of?" the worldwide response was the same -- animals.
The full results of the survey can be found at www.childfund.org/dreams201
(Reporting by Chris Michaud; editing by Patricia Reaney)