Too Much Too Young: Are Our Children Growing Up Too Fast? (Guest Post)

I often thank the Lord above that I have a son because parenting a daughter nowadays must be a scary and worrying business. I'm sure that The Boy will face just as many issues as a girl would, but of a different sort. My own mum had to contend with first make-up sessions (13 and only then was I allowed pink eyeshadow and clear mascara), among with all the other delights of female puberty. Protecting The Boy's innocence is really important to me, especially with my mother in law pointing out how emotionally immature he was on the weekend, but keeping him away from the worrying aspects of society is something I'm keen to keep doing for as long as I can. He may be emotionally immature in comparison to some street-savvy (nearly) four year old boys, but he is still an infant and has no need to worry about fashion, latest gadgets or what the cool kids are doing.

In this guest-post, the author discusses way to ensure older children are able to protect themselves from potential peer pressure issues and become aware of society's dangers in a sensible and controlled manner.

It’s amazing how quickly children grow. One minute we’re carrying them carefully through the front door for the first time, and the next they’re getting ready for their first day at school.

However, there’s a growing concern among parents that the transition from childhood to teenhood is happening too fast. According to a recent survey, an alarming two thirds of British parents believe that kids are leaving childhood behind once they turn 12- but what’s really to blame, and how as parents can we protect our kids?

Pressure to act older

Another common concern amongst parents is that daughters are under pressure to be “sexy” at a premature age, while boys are incensed towards “macho” behaviour.

If your natural reaction is to blame the media, and in particular the sexualised images of young pop stars like Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift, why not join your child next time they sit down for an afternoon of advert-punctuated TV? According to Susan Linn, Director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, “most 8-year-olds worship teens, [so] many marketers have decided to promote products to them as though they are several years older.”

Sharing television time will allow you to keep an eye out for unsuitable adverts, and offer the chance to discuss them openly. If your daughter does plead with you to let them try out grown-up clothes or beauty products for the first time, be sure to shop carefully for the best make-up for young skin, and limit use to birthdays or special occasions.

Social media, smartphones and Internet search

With 75% of British youngsters under the age of ten now owning a mobile phone, today’s children are becoming more and more independent.

But while parents can justify the need for mobile phones for use in after-school arrangements, many cite the Internet as a major culprit for children gaining access to inappropriate material. Although tech-savvy parents can use filters to stop children from accessing age-sensitive content and videos online, it’s more difficult to protect little ones from discovering other truths you’d rather keep secret for the time being, such as “does Father Christmas exist?”

What’s more, recent studies show that restricting access to the home computer isn’t always enough. In 2012 a YouGov survey found that an alarming 1.2 million UK children used their phones to look up violent or adult material.

The most important action to take with your children to educate them about how to use the Internet safely early on, and to ensure that if they’re using social media sites like Facebook or Instagram, then their privacy settings are as high as possible. Remember that these sites also operate a minimum age policy of 13.

Don’t be afraid to talk

With a growing number of external influences on your child’s life, it’s more important than ever to keep your relationship strong. Where possible, try to vet the media they consume so that you can face difficult issues head on and be clued up about what your daughter encounters, in school as well as in the media.

For instance, if your daughter is interested in reading women’s magazines like Glamour or Cosmopolitan, try read a sample first and make a note of anything that troubles you: such as the use of size-zero models. Sit down with her afterwards and chat about the magazine in a mature way, as this can go some way in combating body image or weight concerns.

There are no easy answers to this problem, but you can at least be on hand to offer your children advice and support, and to make the most of these formative childhood years.

Guest-post.

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Comments

  1. says

    i completely agree with you about having sons over having daughter/s. i always envisaged myself having a daughter but now i havent and wont i am content and actually pleased because i think girls have to grow up waaaay to fast nowadays and the media is not a good role model for them. x

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      I couldn't agree more; the sexualisation of young girls (and boys to a certain extent) scares the hell out of me!

  2. says

    I agree with the son/daughter thing too. I don't want a daughter because I can't bear to watch her go through the same things as I did. I hated my teenage years and the things girls are faced with now actually terrifies me.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      I agree, but it's also the way that we teach our sons to behave towards women which is important. I need to ensure that The Boy understands and has respect for all people, regardless of gender. Scary stuff this parenting lark.

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