Growing up too fast: Whatever happened to childhood?

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I appreciate this is a dramatic statement, but is childhood in retreat after fighting a losing battle? Are our children growing up too fast, thanks to the naivety of us mums and dads towards the online world?

growing up fast, growing up too fast, childhood, childhood development
Are the experiences childhood have online making them grow up too fast?

I know this is an age-old complaint. Every generation bemoans that fact kids are “growing up too fast these days,” but I’m developing some real fears that childhood is changing and not in a good way. I feel it’s largely, but not exclusively, down to experiences children are having online.

Mrs Adams and I have faced a few instances recently that have left me feeling more than a little concerned about what kids in the tweenage years are being exposed to. Of greater concern, however, is how children in that age group are responding to what they’re seeing.

Along with many parents, we are fighting a constant battle with Helen, our 10-year-old. Some of her friends have been allowed access to social media channels inappropriate for that age group such as Instagram and Snapchat. I hardly need to point out that channels like this are meant for older kids, 13 at the youngest.

Of her friends who have access to these channels, it is often with the full knowledge, sometimes even support, of their parents. Helen feels left out and frequently asks if she can have them also. We keep telling her that no, she can’t.

It is tiring and exhausting to have keep saying no. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not about to give in and say “yes” simply to get a quiet life and for very good reason. If anything, our resolve is hardening.

When Helen has been trying to persuade us she should have access to these apps, she has shown Mrs Adams and I what her friends are getting up to online. If ever our child made a big mistake, this was it!

Thinking we’d agree that her friends were simply making anodyne music videos or posting amusing photographs, we’ve been horrified. Kids have been posting images of themselves with full faces of make-up, they’ve been recording videos on school premises and so on.

Helen has made comments about the number of followers her friends have and how many likes they’ve been getting. Please keep in mind our daughter is on the outside if these circles.

For those kids who are at the centre of all this, the pressure must be immense. They’re too young to understand what they’re doing and already they’re getting anxious. As if to prove the point, Helen tells me some of her friends post messages online asking why more people aren’t liking their content. From an adult that would sound desperate, from a child that is shocking.

The simple pleasures of going for a bike ride or kicking a ball about don’t seem to cut it with many kids. They’re wanting to spend the time online to impress friends I feel this is very sad.

I’ve been thinking back to my own childhood and these pressures simply didn’t exist. Back then my family complained about the amount of TV I watched, but there were only four channels and streaming media was unheard of.

Sure, there was pressure to be cool. There was pressure to fit in, but there weren’t smartphones that were constantly feeding this to me and my friends.

The online world is relatively new. We are the first generation of parents to be handling these issues. I am very worried about the impact of the online world on some youngsters. I think they are being exposed to material that is inappropriate and the impact of this is that some kids are growing up too fast.

What’s your opinion? Do you agree with that children are growing up too fast? Do you think it’s the influence of the online world or is it down to parents failing to appreciate the impact of allowing kids to do things online they are too young to understand?

8 thoughts on “Growing up too fast: Whatever happened to childhood?”

  1. It’s terrifying. I totally agree with you, and I think we, as bloggers using social media everyday see what it can do to adults, who should be able to detach themselves from it and see it for what it is. So for children who haven’t the life experieince to understand how it really works and the damage it can do, there’s not much hope.

    Thankfully N only knows one child in his year (age 8) who evidently has a phone. N won’t be having a phone (if I have my way) until secondary school, and certainly not a smartphone until he really is missing out. But I don’t agree with social media under a certain set age. N is a rule follower so i’m hoping he’ll stand by his agreement that it should only be over 13s. But he already goes on about wanting an xbox so he and his friends can talk to each other. It’s a slippery slope I fear, and I want him to continue being strong and confident in himself. I’m hoping my awareness about how social media works has rubbed off on him and he’ll be ok once he is allowed to use it. Although in the meantime, I’m hoping these children all realise the damage and revert back to being normal ‘old fashioned’ children with useful access to the internet rather than the ‘trend’ side of it.

    1. I like that description: Useful access as opposed to the “trend” side. That’s a good way of putting it and explains why we’re seriously limiting the kids’ access to YouTube. I don’t get why parents are allowing such young kids ot have access to apps like Snapchat etc. They are too young to understand how it works and when a group of them all start using it, things go wrong and they go wrong quickly.

  2. This is always going to be a emotive subject and one that I too have had to deal with. Both my boys have Instagram accounts (12 and 13 year olds) and all three have smart phones. My daughters smart phone was not so much my idea. However her mother wanted her to have one to remain in touch with her more and also her side of the family who live overseas.

    I have a deal with all three of mine, they can have their smart technology, but I will monitor the use. I also have access/passcodes to each phone. I have made it clear that I won’t snoop or spy on them. But the odd look now and again to keep an eye out. I have friends who banned their kids from Instagram and other social media, only to find that the kids had set it up behind their backs. Long term I believe it is about building trust and respect.

    I also remember growing up and my dad not liking channel 4 because it represented a change and more ‘original and fresh programs’ and for a while It wasn’t allowed in our house. Also ITV, was viewed as a commercial enterprise that was only there to sell us things we didn’t need via advertisements.

    Moderation – there I said it! My three probably spend more time away from there phones than they do on them and I will try and keep it that way and in a weird way I don’t get too upset if a screen gets smashed at the skate park or mountain bike track as they film each other and their mates doing stuff.

    Fab post and I look forward to seeing everyone’s response to it.

    1. Yeah, we monitor closely what the kids do online but they;re too young for Instagram, Snapchat, TicToc etc but so many of their friends have it. My kids then feel under pressure to have these apps and behave the way their friends are with fully made-up faces etc. it’s daft and – to be frank – I can see it comes from parents who don’t watch what their kids are doing. It’s such a negative influence at a young age.

  3. Oh that’s a biggie, John! And no one big universal answer. So much depends, as Ian says, in building trust with our kids as users, and even then there will be spats and conflicts. There is the struggle between needing to know what is going on for them, and allowing them a certain leeway to do their sharing and communicating thing online. Know your kids would be my kind if guiding mantra, in order to gauge what is okay, and not. That’s my starting response … there will be a lot of long replies to your great post

    1. Yeah, you have to know your kids and guide them. trouble is, what are other kids doing because it all impacts on yours? This is what I have said to my eldest time and again: It’s not that we don’t trust you, it’s everyone else. Sounds horrible but some kids have incredible leeway online, far too much freedom. It impacts on us all.

  4. As a father to a five year old who has already started asking about a phone this terrifies me. I think we need to try and set an example as best we can by trying to reduce our own phone use in front of them. It’s then, like some others have said, a question of moderation and building trust etc. But peer pressure can be so bad! I honestly don’t know how I’m going to deal with it and I wish you and the others the best of luck in coming up with a happy medium. Just don’t forget to tell me when you do.

    1. No pressure on me there then Neil! If I find a solution I’ll let you know. I’m afraid I’m not surprised about your five year old. How often do you go to cafes / pubs / restaurants and see parents shove their kids in front of screens?

      Then again, I think this issue is slightly different. Online safety and digital resilience is often considered a teenage issue, but thanks to irresponsible parents it’s become a childhood issue and because of what kids are seeing / doing online, they’re growing up too fast. Parents need to wise up.

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