A toxic combination of marketing, media and peer pressure.
There is no denying that children today are growing up – both physically and behaviorally – at a much faster pace now than their parents’ generation.
In fact, according to a survey conducted by Netmums, most parents agree that these days, childhood is over for many children by the age of 12.
Users of the popular UK-based parenting forum complained that children are under pressure to grow up too fast, and that girls are made to worry about their appearance and boys are pushed into “macho” behaviour at too young an age.
The website’s co-founder Siobhan Freegard blamed a “toxic combination of marketing, media and peer pressure”.
“The pace of modern life is so fast that it is even snatching away the precious years of childhood,” Freegard explained to the BBC.
“Children no longer want to be seen as children, even when as parents we know they still are.”
“There needs to be a radical rethink in society to revalue childhood and protect it as a precious time – not time to put pressure on children to grow up far too fast.”
To look into the issue of modern childhood, the website asked for its members’ views and received more than a thousand replies.
The most common view – from more than two-thirds of this group – was that childhood was now over by the age of 12.
Children are growing up in an over-sexualised culture
The results of the Netmums survey is no surprise, and just highlights parental concerns about our children growing up in an over-sexualised culture.
Claire Perry MP, the UK prime minister’s adviser on childhood, has warned about children accessing inappropriate material on websites or through mobile phones, with another UK MP, Diane Abbott, has recently attacked what she called the “pornification” of youth culture, in which young people were growing up in an environment of sexual bullying and explicit sexual images.
Close to one-third of those replying to the Netmums survey believed that childhood ended even sooner, at the age of 10, with many parents voicing their concerns that children were being put under pressure to act older than their years.
Taking to the website’s forum to discuss, parents worried that girls were made to worry about their appearance and their weight, while boys were meant to act tough. And, maybe even more worrying, many parents felt that both boys and girls were under pressure to take an interest in sex at too young an age.
“Children need time to grow and emotionally mature in order to cope with what life throws at them,” Freegard explains.