WA risks producing a generation of selfish young people unless children are taught from an early age they have an obligation to give back to society, according to WA Governor Malcolm McCusker and his wife, Tonya.
The couple yesterday launched the Kids Who Give WA program, which encourages children to develop a social conscience by rewarding outstanding acts of kindness and giving.
In an opinion piece published in today's _The Weekend West _, Mrs McCusker said a lot of emphasis was placed on the "rights and entitlements" of young people, but it was important to remember they also had a debt to the community.
"How many times do young adults fail to stand up for senior citizens on our busy trains and how often do the lives of our young people focus on the clothes they are wearing or latest iPhone to be purchased," she writes.
"The problem with this notion of entitlement and indulgence . . . is that we are in danger of producing a generation of selfish, egocentric young people where 'me' is number one. A generation that is oblivious to the plight of the disadvantaged and the fact that some people go to bed hungry each night."
Mr McCusker said the program was aimed at primary school students aged 12 and under because they were still open to learning.
"Their future character is, I think, well and truly instilled by about the age of 10," he said. "We just wanted to get the message out that there is need, and that you can do something about it as a child." Child and adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said children were indulged because families were smaller, and time-poor parents felt guilty.
"We really do have a phenomenally narcissistic generation," he said, adding that research had found service to others was one of the keys to leading a meaningful life. Children should give a third of their pocket money to charity.
WA Primary Principals Association president Stephen Breen said children could not be blamed for their strong sense of entitlement. "We have to look seriously at our society and the role modelling that is given to young people," he said.
Children who register their plans to help a charity or cause at www.kidswhogivewa.com.au have a chance to visit Government House and present their projects to Mr McCusker, government ministers and other community leaders.
Their schools could share $50,000 in cash prizes.