Childhood being eroded by modern life, British experts warn
This is a surprisingly reactionary letter from a group of Lefties. As long as they can interfere in other people's lives they are happy, I guess. But it is all just assertion and opinion so is not worth much.
Let me make some counter-assertions: I helped bring up a son and a stepson who spent most of their free time as kids playing computer games, with my approval. They are both now happy, well-adjusted achievement-oriented young men who work hard at what they do -- one in business and one in academe. So they came to no harm from their computer "addiction".
I think that there IS concern about the behaviours that young people learn these days but that lies at the feet of moronic "non-directive" modern schools and bombed-out parents. One of my "boys" went to a selective State school and the other to a private school but their genes and their civilized home life were probably more important factors
Childhood is being eroded by a “relentless diet” of advertising, addictive computer games, test-driven education and poor childcare, a powerful lobby of more than 200 experts warns today.
In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, the group of academics, teachers, authors and charity leaders says children’s wellbeing and mental health is being undermined by the pressures of modern life. They urge the Government to address a culture of “too much, too soon” in Britain.
This includes a ban on all forms of advertising aimed at the youngest children, the establishment of a play-based curriculum for infants and a public information campaign warning of the dangers of screen-based entertainment.
The comments came five years after many of the same experts sent similar letter to the Telegraph that criticised politicians and the public for failing to allow children to develop properly at a young age. It led to a debate on the state of childhood in Britain and coincided with the publication of Labour’s Children’s Plan — a policy document covering all aspects of young people’s lives.
But the group, which includes Philip Pullman, the children’s author, Baroness Greenfield, the Oxford University neuroscientist, Lord Layard, emeritus professor of economics at the London School of Economics, and the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, claims that the “erosion of childhood in Britain has continued apace since 2006”.
A UN report published last week accused British parents of trapping children in a cycle of “compulsive consumerism” by showering them with toys and designer labels instead of spending quality time with them.
The academics say Britain has the “lowest levels of children’s wellbeing in the developed world” and is regularly placed “at or near the top of international league tables on almost all indicators of teenage distress and disaffection”.
The letter adds: “Although parents are now deeply concerned about this issue, the erosion of childhood in the UK has continued apace since 2006. Our children are subjected to increasing commercial pressures, they begin formal education far earlier than the European norm, and they spend ever-more time indoors with screen-based technology, rather than in active outdoor activity and play.
“The time has come to move from awareness to action.”
The letter, which is signed by 228 people, was circulated by Dr Richard House, senior lecturer at Roehampton University’s Research Centre for Therapeutic Education. It calls for major reforms to save children from a “relentless diet of 'too much, too soon’”.
This should include a public information campaign highlighting children’s developmental needs, the requirement to promote high quality child care and the dangers of a “consumerist, screen-based lifestyle”.
The group also criticises the education system, saying that five year-olds should be given a play-based curriculum in the first full year of school instead of formal lessons. The comments will be seen as a criticism of Coalition plans to subject all children to a reading test at the end of their first year in school.
The letter calls for a ban on all forms of marketing directed at children up until at least the age of seven.
Dr House told the Telegraph: “The inexorable momentum of moderntechnological life is such that despite the awareness raised through the September 2006 Telegraph open letter on 'toxic childhood’, matters have improved very little.
“We also live in an age of seemingly ever-mounting anxiety; and when the adult world is unable to contain and process its own anxieties in a mature way, they inevitably get projected on to children, resulting in countless well-intentioned but often highly inappropriate intrusions into children’s experience that leave children’s true needs misunderstood and neglected.”
Publication of the letter coincides with the publication of a book, Too Much, Too Soon?, featuring 23 essays on early learning and the erosion of childhood.
One study by Sally Goddard Blythe, the director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, concluded that up to half of children were not ready for school at the age of five because of “sedentary lifestyles”. They struggled to grip pencils properly, sit still, stand up straight and even catch a ball after failing to develop physical and communication skills at a young age.
Mrs Goddard Blythe said: “If I go back 23 years to when I first started to work in this field, the majority of people we saw were those for whom there was a primary underlying cause for their difficulties, such as mild cerebral palsy.
“Increasingly, I am seeing children with no single, obvious cause but general lifestyle issues that seem to be contributing to the fact that they are not developing motor skills in the way they did 20 years ago.
“They are spending more time in front of computer games and electronic media, meaning they have less opportunity to go out and play, explore and take risks.”
Sarah Teather, the Children’s Minister, said the Government was trying to help families but added: “Government can only do so much. As a society, we all have a stake in making sure there is time for family life and children are free to cherish their childhoods.”