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Kids dobbing on mates could be a good thing and lead to them becoming good citizens

Jackie Sinnerton, April 5, 2018 8:37PM The Courier-Mail

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Charlie Brophy, 4, is known for dobbing on his twin siblings Freya and Harry, 2, to mum Kate. media_cameraCharlie Brophy, 4, is known for dobbing on his twin siblings Freya and Harry, 2, to mum Kate.


Reading level: red

Kids shouldn’t be told to stop dobbing* on their friends and siblings because “telling tales” could simply be their way of showing they are responsible citizens*.

Shouts of “Mum, Billy just painted all over the walls”, or “Dad, Anabelle poked her tongue out at you”, might just be children showing they care about the person they believe should know the truth or that they want to fix the problems they see in our world.

People with a social conscience*, often grow up to worry about others who are poor, ill, old, or disadvantaged in other ways and try to help them.

Kids who tell tales have a social conscience they are not keeping themselves out of trouble media_cameraTelling tales could lead to kids being good citizens later in life, according social development researchers in the US. Kate Brophie is used to her kids Charlie (left) and twins Freya and Harry, 2, dobbing on each other.

Social development researchers in the US found that children will dob even when they know they can’t be blamed for doing something wrong.

“Children’s tattling* is often viewed as an undesirable* behaviour. But at least under some circumstances, tattling can also be seen as evidence that children recognise important social norms* and that they care enough about those norms to try and make sure that others follow them as well,” the international study co-author Dr Amrisha Vaish, of the University of Virginia said.

Telling on your siblings when they are naughty is part of developing a social conscience. media_cameraTelling on your siblings when they are naughty is part of developing a social conscience.

Her research sheds new light on why young children dob and raises the question of whether tattling should be discouraged in early childhood.

Dr Vaish and her research colleagues believe the children are trying to enforce social “norms” and to help their parents, teachers or authority figures.

“This kind of norm enforcement is generally seen as a positive force in social groups,” Dr Vaish said.

RendezView. Naughty kids. media_cameraThe researchers believe dobbing on naughty kids should be encouraged.

Mother Kate Brophy from the Sunshine Coast says her four-year-old son likes to keep an eye on his younger twin siblings and report any problems or naughty behaviour.

“As the big sister I think she is trying to help me out but dobbing is definitely contagious* as the little ones are picking up the habit,” she said.


dobbing: telling on someone

citizens: a legally recognised resident of a country

social conscience: a sense of responsibility

tattling: telling on someone

undesirable: not wanted

norms: something that is usual or normal

contagious: something that spreads from one person to another


1. What is dobbing? 
2. What does having a social conscience mean? 
3. Which university conducted the research? 
4. When children dob, what sort of people are they wanting to help?
5. Which of the Brophy kids is most likely to dob on the others? 


1. What is dobbing?

Read the story carefully. What is this story saying about dobbing? List the different points about dobbing that you can find in the story.

Extension: Do you agree with this? Write sentences explaining your opinion. Give reasons that back up your opinion, or would help convince someone that you are right.

Time: Allow 25 minutes for each activity.

Curriculum Links: Personal and Social Capability

2. Right time to dob

Think about times when it might be important to dob? Write down times when dobbing would be the right, or safest, thing to do.

Extension: Think about your answers to today’s activities. Do you think that this is an important issue for kids? Write a letter to Kids News explaining why you think that this is OR is not something that they should write an article about.

Time: Allow 20-25 minutes for each activity.

Curriculum Links: Personal and Social Capability, English


After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many wow words or ambitious pieces of vocabulary that you can find in yellow. Discuss the meanings of these words and see if you can use them orally in another sentence.

Please do not use one-word answers. Explain what you enjoyed or found interesting about the article. Use lots of adjectives.

Extra Reading in civics