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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Kids are being 'robbed of their childhood'

Kids are being ‘robbed of their childhood’
By Sarah Harris
London: Teachers on Tuesday attacked the rampant consumerism which is “robbing youngsters of their childhood’’. They said young girls are being urged to believe it is no longer ‘cool’ to be a child and they should aspire to wear ‘sexy’ underwear and expensive trainers instead. Instead of enjoying their childhood years they are being bombarded with marketing which encourages them to grow up too soon. Many parents are also failing to preserve the “precious’’ innocence of growing up. As a result, families are increasingly giving in to “pester power’’ and buying youngsters inappropriate items for example, T-shirts and handbags emblazoned with the word ‘bitch’ . Delegates at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ conference in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, claimed that the growing trend is making life in schools more difficult. This is because children are being turned into fashionably dressed mini-adults who are fully aware of their rights but have little understanding of their responsibilities. They approved a motion claiming that youngsters should have a “right to childhood’’. Kay Johansson, head of art at Rhyl High School, Denbighshire, North Wales, told the conference, “None of this is helping teachers to do their job. We are increasingly faced with children who see no value in education because they know it all, have no idea of deferred gratification because they have it all and see no reason why they should respect adults because adults don’t respect them.’’ “Children are being robbed of their childhood. They are being forced to enter the adult world too soon and as a consequence they are missing out on that crucial period of time when the mind and personality develops.’’ Johansson, 58, who has a 22-yearold son, insisted that childhood was “the most vital part of human development.” But she had witnessed a “steady erosion” of this ‘precious time’ during her 37-year career. She said, “These days what I see is confusion. In the schoolyard where I used to see children playing games that would keep them fit, teach them social skills and stimulate their creativity, I now see groups of children standing around discussing who has the most expensive trainers or the latest mobile phone.” “They seem afraid to play. To be a child is so not cool.” Johansson claimed that children gain a glimpse of the adult world through the television and Internet. But if parents do not take time to explain what they see, they can get a “distorted” view. She warned that the “more and more that children gain access to the adult world the more they believe they are adult”. “This idea is happily reinforced by the type of companies that produce sexy undies and seductive party clothes for sixyearolds and cheeky ringtones for their phones,” she said. “However, what frightens me most is the way all of this is becoming acceptable. The way adult expectations of children are getting lower and lower.” Daily Mail Statistics distort the truth Recent trends have suggested that girls are rapidly becoming more violent while the bad behaviour of boys has not changed much. But the numbers are deceiving, some researchers say. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) shows arrests of juvenile females for assaults and violent crime from 1980 through 2003 rose from 20% to more than 30% of the total. The media have latched onto the statistic with glaring headlines. A book released in February carries the catchy title See Jane Hit and offers tips on how to deal with violent girls. An article last year in the Boston Globe was headlined ‘Violence raging among teen girls.’ Newsweek called the phenomenon ‘Bad Girls Go Wild.’ The real change is in how police and society deal with acts that used to be viewed as relatively minor, says Darrell Steffensmeier, a professor of sociology and criminology at Penn State. “Other national sources of information on youth violence do not support the increase,’’ Steffensmeier said on Tuesday. “Several changes in violence prevention policies by police or at schools have widened the net, boosting the arrests of girls.’’ In a study, girls accounted for 20% of the crimes in 1980 and 19% in 2003.The surveys involved national samples from the youth population and are independent of criminal justice biases, the researchers note. “Some commentators have blamed the perceived change on greater stress in girls’ lives,” Steffensmeier said. Agencies
(TOI/13th April 2006/page29)

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