I read a report recently entitled ‘Letting Children be Children', a report reviewing the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood.
The paper was written by Reg Bailey, CEO of the UK charity 'Mother's Union' in response to a request from the UK Minister for Children and Families.
In his report, Bailey makes this observation:
"We live in a society that is changing at a bewildering rate. Increased levels of wealth have created strong commercial pressures on every one of us, whether or not we have participated in that affluence. Society also seems to have become more openly sexualized; the rapidly changing technological environment has its benefits in so many ways but has also made the seamier side of humanity inescapable. If adults need to be emotionally and otherwise well-adjusted to deal with this environment; so much more so do children."
What can we do to prevent our kids from growing up too fast?
Fristly, we need to make sure that we don't put our heads in the sand and hope the problem just goes away.
One obvious way in which our society makes our kids grow up too quickly is through the impact of technology and the mass media. As one parent in the Bailey review noted, "I feel that today’s society encourages children to grow up too quickly, we do not allow them to be children... The media, technology, celebrities, advertising all contribute towards this."
By limiting our children’s access to the constant influence of technology and the mass media, we can help them from getting too much exposure to content that is designed for older people. By filtering this information we can work to protect them from seeing and hearing things that make them grow up unhelpfully fast.
Here are some handy hints you might like to follow:
1. Control the technology
It's important that our children are not exposed to the constant impact of the television and the Internet. As tempting as it is, try not to use the TV or the computer as a babysitter. Limit the amount of 'screen time' your children engage in.
In addition, you might be wise to install safety measures on your computers that block access to certain Internet sites and content.
2. Communicate about the technology
Sit down with your kids as they explore the Internet or watch television. Chat with them about the ‘adult’ issues that come up from what you see.
Plus, when you sit down for meals as a family, why not talk with the children about the things they are watching or reading, whether it's online, on the TV or radio, or in books and magazines.
It is also good to talk about their involvement in social media. Discuss with them what is appropriate for them at their age to share on Facebook or Twitter. Make sure that your child includes you as a 'friend' in their social network world, so that you can live the online life beside them, and help them avoid exposure to things that are inappropriate for their age.
3. Create environments free from technology
Provide experiences for your children that are technology-free. Maybe you might choose to make your next family holiday a 'screen free' occasion. Youth camps can be a great place to get them away from screens for a weekend or a week.
Sport and outdoor activities are another great way to get them away from screen. Taking kids away from the constant bombardment of advertising, television, the Internet and other influences can not only help them to stop growing up too fast, but it can also help them to slow down and to enjoy simple ‘fun’ things, like throwing a ball or riding a bike.
In the end, as we prayerfully seek to bring up our kids in a God-honouring way, we should do all we can help create a society where children can be children and we, as parents, can say 'no'.
There’s a lot to celebrate when you’re a kid… so let’s help our kids be kids!