The Raising Children Network website is based on the philosophy that all children and families are individual and different. We provide scientifically validated information, translated into everyday language, to help parents and carers make decisions that work for them in their individual family circumstances.
Children are as individual and as different as their parents, and making decisions about what’s best for raising children is intensely personal. There are some useful universal principles for everyone, but the ‘right’ solution frequently changes from situation to situation.
We see our role as providing information that can help parents with the day-to-day decisions of raising children, and to also help parents and carers look after their own needs. We believe that positive outcomes can be achieved when parents have access to information based on the best science in parenting and child health and development. We find and translate this science into everyday language so parents can understand and use it in a way that works for them.
We believe that parent engagement is enhanced when we explain the logic and science behind the information we present. To create our content, we collaborate with top Australian and international experts, using a rigorous quality-control process to ensure the information we present is valid and reliable.
We believe that parents are best placed to decide what is right for their children and family based on their own values, circumstances and lifestyle. We believe that parents can handle the truth. If there is complexity, uncertainty or controversy regarding any topic, we will share that with parents. Where the science is unclear, or where there is evidence for more than one approach to an issue, we will provide information about the different options and their risks and benefits. We will not tell parents what to do, but will offer detailed information on how to implement a particular chosen strategy.
We cater for everybody, from casual browsers to those with an urgent problem to solve. By employing effective communication tools and behaviour-change science, we try to make it easier for parents and others who raise children to understand, remember and use beneficial information and ideas. We know that learning and health outcomes are much better and more effective if the individual is involved in the process (either by driving it with assistance from a professional, or by understanding the ‘whys’ behind the information or treatment). An informed population is a healthier population.
We believe in supporting the professionals and organisations throughout the community who have contact with families and children: not only those professionals and agencies who have a clear mandate to support families, but also those who are well placed in the community to make the lives of parents and children easier and more enjoyable – people such as employers, business and community groups.
Who this website is for
This is a website for Australian mothers, fathers, grandparents and anyone else who has responsibility for the care of children. We aim to meet the information needs of a wide range of users, including those who are just curious, those who are looking for assistance with particular problems or issues, and those who want to explore the science behind modern thinking on the care of children.
In addition to being a source of information for parents, we aim to offer personal support by helping to connect people through our forums. The groundbreaking My Neighbourhood feature on this site also gives users the ability to connect with others in their own locations.
This is also a website for the wide range of professionals and agencies who work with parents every day – general practitioners, maternal and child health nurses, child care workers, preschool teachers, school teachers, social workers, psychologists and so on. Professionals can refer parents to the site, or download and distribute its information to the parents they are working with.
Finally, we believe that businesses and community organisations can be an important part of the fabric of parent support in our community. We are building an information base that will assist employers, sports clubs, church groups and others to understand the needs of parents, and to support organisations in their aspirations to become more family friendly.
Where our content comes from
We write and produce our own content, and also source content from others. We prefer to use or adapt existing high-quality content produced by a third party, then fill gaps with new content that is innovative in scope, style and design. We believe online users feel safe and supported when content has a consistent look and feel and is in keeping with our overall philosophy on tone and style.
We have established close relationships with a number of highly respected content partners. As our site develops, we will continue to welcome opportunities to work in partnership with expert individuals and organisations to bring quality, science-based parenting information to the community.
Unsolicited third party content might be considered if it is consistent with the aims of the site, fits within the site’s information framework and passes our quality assessment processes.
Our writing embodies the philosophy of giving parents information to make their own decisions. We provide information and tools for parents, not rules about what they should and should not do.
We have set ourselves a high bar for our content. We want to present content that is:
- realistic, with an emphasis on providing simple and practical parenting tips
- respectful, by supporting parents to make their own decisions (we won’t tell parents what to value or what to do)
- accepting, by acknowledging and validating the diverse views held by parents, and recognising that parents endeavour to do their best, sometimes under difficult circumstances
- positive, by conveying optimism and a belief that parents can bring about positive change in their lives and the lives of their children
- collaborative, in that it begins with our readers in mind and actively seeks to use their feedback.
On the technical side, research has shown that people read differently on the web – most scan pages rather than read word for word (Morkes & Nielsen, 1997). Because of this, we aim to build text that is concise, scannable and objective, and to exploit the linking and interactive capacities of internet-based material.
We use a comprehensive marketing research project to test topics, relevance, style, tone and format of content. In addition, a rolling program of consumer consultation and testing is used to ensure relevance, clarity and appropriateness of selected content.
Traditionally, parenting information and support has not been father friendly or inclusive, but research has shown that father involvement in parenting has substantial benefits for children, women and families in general. We promote engagement with fathers, endeavour to develop information and approaches that attract fathers to our website, and aim to meet their specific information needs.
Finding information quickly
Modern parents are under time pressure. We cater for the needs of parents who are time poor by implementing the following tools: simple and user-friendly navigation, powerful search tools, information that highlights the most important messages, and support tools such as an instant glossary for technical terms and frequently used key concepts.
Addressing the needs of users with low literacy
We acknowledge that many members of the wider community have limited literacy skills, so we have developed a wide range of online material to cater for all levels of literacy.
We aim to ensure that core parenting and child health information is presented in plain English. We also utilise a range of technical solutions to assist users, such as keeping information succinct, prioritising information on the page, and by using a simple and intuitive navigation system. We have developed graphic-rich information resources for those who prefer not to – or who are unable to – read English. Some of our resources are translated into languages other than English.
Accommodating cultural diversity
Australia is a culturally diverse country – its inhabitants speak over 200 languages, including over 45 Indigenous languages. Fifteen percent of the population speak a language other than English.
In recognition of this, we implement reasonable, cost-effective strategies that allow the broadest possible audience to access our content.
Our approach to cultural and linguistic diversity (CALD) is to:
- recognise the role of culture in parenting practices, simultaneously reinforcing the universal nature of much of the parenting experience (regardless of cultural origin, we share the experience of raising humans)
- acknowledge the cultural relativity of all parenting information, including the information provided on this website
- support the right of parents to accept or reject information based on their values and beliefs (through offering choices and avoiding prescriptive advice)
- write for the broadest possible audience, and to avoid unintentional cultural barriers in our language where possible
- use ethnically diverse images and parent stories that reflect the cultural diversity of all Australian families
- support a range of media on the site (such as graphic-rich media)
- support practitioners in working with CALD families
- provide links to existing high-quality translated information on government websites
- translate English-language content in Parenting in Pictures
- provide information for parenting practitioners about working across cultures.
We acknowledge that many parenting and child health and development issues can be controversial. Community members have a wide range of views on what is and isn’t appropriate parenting, and there can often be disagreement among researchers and practitioners.
Our management of controversial issues will be guided by two key principles: the strength of the scientific evidence, and the need for balance.
This is our approach to potentially controversial issues:
- Acknowledge the controversy.
- If there are scientifically valid arguments on both sides of a controversial topic, we will present both sides of the argument and allow users to make their own decisions.
Our Scientific Advisory Board helps us clarify the science on a specific issue – for example, by advising us on what is and is not known – alerts us to recent or seminal research that should be taken into account, proposes options to be presented, and advises on the strength or weight to be given to any specific recommendations or advice.