Childhood ‘over by 12’ claims survey - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 6 March 2013

It’s a cliché to say that children grow up more quickly these days. But today it has been claimed that childhood is effectively over for many children by the age of 12.


Childhood ‘over by 12’ claims survey

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 6 March 2013


David Harrison

It’s a cliché to say that children grow up more quickly these days. But today it has been claimed that childhood is effectively over for many children by the age of 12.

Girls are made to worry about their appearance and their weight, while boys are under pressure to be macho – and both are forced to take an interest in sex at too young an age, according to a survey of members of a parenting website.

Respondents to the Netmums survey blamed “a toxic combination of marketing, media and peer pressure” and called for “a radical rethink in society to revalue childhood and protect it as a precious time”.

But are their views correct? Or is this just the sound of parents finding it difficult to accept that their little angels are sliding into rebellious adolescence? And what are the issues that teachers should explore with their pupils?

Chloe Combi, a writer and former secondary school teacher, says the survey results are largely true. “Every generation complains about teenagers but children today are under a barrage of pressure from advertising, the media and role models which is driving this change,” she says.

Eleven and 12-year olds are “a different breed” from their age group even 15 years ago, she says. “It can be a positive thing if the development is intellectual, but negative aspects such as the early sexualisation of children are worrying,” she says.

Combi argues that school staff should deal with difficult issues in class. “Anyone can have access to pornography 24 hours a day now and much of it is violent, especially towards women.”

Lynne Harrison, a teacher in southwest London, says that social media in particular is putting children under more pressure than ever to behave like adults at a younger age.

“It used to be bad enough having to deal with just your classmates’ comments about the way you dressed or behaved but today’s children are exposed to much wider peer pressure through Facebook, Twitter and text messages,” she says. “It’s a lot to take when you are on the brink of adolescence.”

As Siobhan Freegard, co-founder of the Netmums website, says: “Children need time to grow and emotionally mature to cope with what life throws at them.”



Questions:

  • Do you feel under pressure in your life? If so, where does this pressure come from and what form does it take?
  • Do you think your experience of being a child is different to that of children in the past or in other countries? How and why?
  • What is childhood? When do you think it ends and does this matter?
  • Lynne Harrison, a teacher in southwest London, says social media in particular is putting children under more pressure than ever to behave like adults at a younger age." How far do you agree or disagree with this?

Resources for you


Peer pressure

  • Explore the issue of peer pressure and what friendship means with these role playing activities.

Sex and relationships in films

  • A lesson plan examining how sex and relationships are depicted in the media and on film and looking at how pornography distorts sex.

The power of advertising

  • A PowerPoint-based resource that introduces the concepts of advertising and the power that it has in society.

The problems with sexting

  • An engaging lesson covering the sensitive topics of sexting, sex and relationships, mobile phone, bullying and internet privacy.


Further news resources


First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

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