Our Voice: Too Old Too Soon!

Our Voice: Too Old Too Soon!

Are children trying to be too old too soon? Sarah discusses the cultural influences that may be jeopardising childhood for the younger generation – from mobile phones to music, is society encouraging children and preteens to grow up before they’re ready?

The more I work in schools, the more I am shocked by how ‘grown up’ children are trying to be. I don’t think it’s a new fascination; back in my childhood I regularly indulged in games of Mums and Dads, and once spent months pestering my mum for a pair of platform trainers which wouldn’t have looked out of place on a Spice Girl. (She eventually compromised with a much lower pair that were still platform-y enough to make me feel like I was practically the honorary 6th member of the group.)

Children and pre teen’s now seem to be fully up to date on the latest trends; a far cry from the days where children’s clothes and adult clothes were distinctly different and a girls first trip to Tammy Girl marked a significant moment in her life. Thanks to the likes of the Disney Channel and the induced desire to replicate Hannah Montanna, Selina Gomez or Ashley Whatshername, make up and hair dye are things that many of them are familiar with and even use, whilst fashion magazines seem to be a popular choice with lots of the year 6’s I work with. At that age I was happy enough, and felt very grown up, reading Jacqueline Wilson’s Girls In Love – excited that it stated in the front cover that it was for older readers.

With technology developments always on the up and a further increase in the way we obsess over the concept of celebrity, I can’t help but feel that our children paying the price. It isn’t unusual for me to walk into a year 5 class and hear that the majority of children have Blackberrys or some other android phone. What they need them for is beyond me, and it seems that most of them are being used for quick access to social media sites and to watch and play music videos.

When talking to young people about their favourite artists the most popular seem to be Little Mix, One Direction, JLS and Nicki Minaj. In many ways this is unsurprising, what with the catchy tunes, bright and exciting music videos they seem at first relatively child friendly right? Wrong. I have no doubt that these artists are aware of their audiences and fan bases, and therefore firmly believe that it is their responsibility to ensure that what they produce is appropriate for these people. Whilst some of these ‘artists’ don’t do too badly in keeping their material subtle enough to be considered child friendly, or indeed have produced music which actually boasts a positive message to youngsters, others (Yes, I’m talking to you Miss Minaj) make me actively angry in their seeming ignorance as to how unsuitable their songs are for younger ears. It’s all very well using a catchy tune, garish colours and a cartoon-esque image, but these are things which children will actively engage with – especially when linked to the concept of maturity and glamour.  A child I worked with recently informed me that she knew the whole rap from Superbass, which prompted me into a stunned silence knowing full well the language and phrases used in the song. Of course we can’t blame children for their interest of enthusiasm towards such things, they’re hardly going to analyse a song and then make an informed decision as to whether the lyrics or video are too suggestive or mature for them to be listening to (and of course they shouldn’t have to do this).

Essentially, they’re having fun (just look at the youtube ‘sensation’ Sophia Grace Brownlee who received over a million views after her mum uploaded a video of her singing Superbass, complete with dance moves that you’d expect to see from a twenty something as opposed to a 6 year old), but someone needs to take responsibility for ensuring that young people are not exposed to things which are, quite frankly, inappropriate.

When did kids stop being allowed to be kids? Even at the age of 24 I regularly look back at my childhood and wish I’d appreciated it more at the time rather than trying to rush through it to reach the all-important teenage years so that I could finally begin to be a ‘proper adult’.

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Sarah Fullagar

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