It’s not that children grow up faster these days…

Cultural commentators often say that children today grow up faster than they used to. As a statement about their everyday autonomy, this could hardly be further from the truth. The boundaries between adult culture and children’s culture may be becoming more blurred, and children may be adopting adult attitudes and mannerisms at an ever younger age. But for the past 30 years or more, childhood prior to adolescence has been marked by shrinking freedom of action for children, and growing adult control and oversight.” (136)

The shrinking of the domain of childhood is a side-effect of wider social changes. As car ownership and use increases streets have become busier and can be unfriendly, uninviting places for pedestrians of all ages. Both the quality and quantity of local green space has been in decline for decades, a trend that has only recently begun to reverse. With parents in the UK working longer hours, their children are spending more time in childcare of one form or another. When they are at home, their parents keep them under a tighter rein because of fears (justified or not) about the dangers that await beyond the front door. Demographic changes in the UK and other European countries mean that, in most neighbourhoods, children are less common and families smaller than they used to be. Communities are, for the above reasons and others, becoming fragmented. All these factors push children inside [-p.137] and once there commercial forces come into play to keep them happy – or at least occupied – through ever more sophisticated media and entertainment offers.” (136-137)

“In the Uk, these changes amount to a steep decline in the amount of contact that children – especially those of primary school-age – have with people and places beyond their immediate family and school. The drop largely cuts across socioeconomic, cultural and gender divides. Its effect is to create an experiential deficit in the kind of self-directed, loosely supervised play activities and everyday adventures with friends, peers and adults that feature so prominently in the childhood memories of older generations. The most visible consequence of the trend is on children’s physical health. The loss of everyday outdoor activity is arguably the single greatest cause of the growth in childhood obesity….” (137)

Ref: Tim Gill (2008) ‘Space-oriented children’s policy: creating child-friendly communities to improve children’s well-being’ Children & Society 22: 136-142

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About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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One Response to It’s not that children grow up faster these days…

  1. Pingback: References to support a review of Te Whariki | LiteracyNZ

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