Climate change is the 2023 Children’s Word of the Year, according to the UK’s Oxford University Press – but anxiety over the future of the planet has left them feeling scared, worried and sad.
In a survey of more than 3,000 children across the country between the ages of six and 14, a third (33 per cent) opted for climate change, with war coming in second at 31 per cent and coronation came third at 24 per cent
The researchers said current affairs have a strong influence on the selections as reflected by the record breaking temperatures, the ongoing conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine as well as the crowning of King Charles III.
Coronavirus was the chosen word of 2020 and queen the top word of 2022, while other past choices have included plastic and refugee.
Many children in this year’s survey said the phrase climate change made them feel scared, sad and worried about its implications.
Aligned for Climate Change Action
Helen Freeman, director of OUP’s children’s division, said the choice of climate change as word of the year showed how willing children were ‘to engage with meaningful change’.
She explained: ‘The choice of climate change not only demonstrates how attuned children are to the news and their environment, but the research also reveals their willingness to engage with meaningful change. Whether it’s understanding how children use slang phrases or what word reflects the past year, it’s imperative we continue to support children’s language development so they have the means and vocabulary to express themselves.’
Explaining why climate change was chosen, children talked to researchers about the impact of environmental threats and their concerns for the future.
Amy Meek, chief executive and co-founder of charity Kids Against Plastic, said: ‘We also mustn’t ignore the findings from the language research which demonstrate young people’s desire for action.
‘Young people not only recognise that climate change is an issue, but they’re also seeing the importance of tackling it. No-one will feel the negative effects of climate change more than the next generation – or the positive effects of the action we take against it now.’
The publisher also researched the slang term of the year, which was chosen to be ‘bro’ by 42 per cent of children.
Past winners of children’s word of the year