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Children and Childhood

David Mazower | 18:02 UK time, Tuesday, 12 September 2006

Today we're looking at the lives of children around the world. It follows the publication of a letter in the British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, signed by several well-known experts on children. Tthey describe 'A sinister cocktail of junk food, marketing, over-competitive schooling and electronic entertainment'. The consequences, they warn, are increased child depression, slower learning, and weaker social skills. There's even talk of the 'death of childhood'.

We also talked about Madonna's controversial concert today in Moscow.

Vinne in Soweto, South Africa, said he felt a lot of pressure at school to keep up with the fashions in clothes, which was difficult for poorer children.

Dominique in Washington DC said life wasn't too difficult in her city. She said she liked going out swimming and to parks.

Marlon in Lancaster, UK, said he had a lot of work to do at his boarding school, but that he liked going out and socialising.

Vinnie said labels were very important, but Marlon said that wasn't the case in Lancaster.

Ramina, who is from Moscow, but goes to school in Bristol, UK, said she and her sister, Milita, had a lot of preparation work to do at school.

Tumelo in Soweto said there was lot of pressure to drink and smoke at parties outside of school.

Marlon said he played with his Xbox a lot, but Ramina said she and her sister did a lot of sport. She said there was one sports lesson a day and other clubs at her school. Marlon said he also did a lot of sport.

Natasha in Lebanon said that because of the war there were lots of powercuts and that they didn't watch a lot of TV. She said they only played video games in the village and not at home and that they read books a lot and played in the parks and gardens.

Manya in New Dehli said technology was proving to be quite a distraction in India.

Vinnie said that in South Africa Playstations and Xboxes were a bad influence on young people.

Nyree in Houston, Texas, said she and her kids were soon moving to Dehli and that they were hoping to have an easier time there as in Texas people dedicated hundreds of hours to organising and playing sports and doing other activities. Manya said Nyree's children would have more time to play in India.

Mary in Texas sent an email saying:

Childhood here is falsely lengthened to 18 and even into the college years. When they go away to college they are often unprepared for adult responsibility

The practice of sheltering children from the real world is consistent with the "dumbing down" of America by the government, that has been going on for many years.

Ramina and Melita said they were sick of adults speaking on their behalf and said that they are happy with the way they are. Adults are wrong in saying they don't have the childhood's they should.

All the children, apart from Natasha, said they had mobile phones. Manya got hers for security and said it wasn't a distraction. Marlon said he was speaking to the programme on his mobile phone, but that he didn't over use it.

Natasha said mobile phones were not for children of her age. She said 14 or 15 would be the right age to get one. She blamed people returning to Lebanon from England and Scotland for bringing so many mobiles to the country.

John Kolala sent the following message:

Growing up in Africa is different in so many ways. I grew up in the 80's. My playing involved mixing with other children as well as toys. In my spare time I used to make simple radios, which I did whenever my parents forced me to go study in my room. Today's children miss the importance of being with friends and exploring new things. Parents and Governments are to blame.

Ramon in the US said growing up there was much different to growing up in other countries, as there were so many distractions there. Fitting in was the biggest thing when he grew up, rather than clothes or technology. He asked Vinnie and Tumelo about their experiences.

Vinnie said what you wear and use is important in South Africa as if you don't have the latest clothes or phones your friends look down on you.

Khaled in Bangladesh sent in the following message.

Technology brings lots of information within a few minutes and a teenager can extend his own range. Technology can extend childhood time

Natasha said what people wore, their grades or wealth didn't matter. It was their personalities that counted.

Manya said there was also peer pressure in India about clothes and phones.

Elva in New Hampshire in the US asked whether children were falling victim to advertising

Vinnie said that in his school there was less pressure than in other South African schools. Marlon said no one really cared what kind of mobile phone you had where he went to school.

Summer Spikerman sent the following message:

My sister is in high school here in Houston, she plays every sport, and is in every play, she is in the FFA (Future Farmers of America) in which she has to take care of a cow and a horse and on top of that she is in all advanced placement classes, she has a 5.0 on a 4 point scale. I ask her all the time if she thinks she is taking on too much and she says that she loves every second of it. She loves all of her activities. She starts her day at 5am and doesn't get home until 8pm.

Abdallah in Washington wrote:

The parents should encourage their children to study and exercise more than watching TV and listening to music.

Joanna Chiu, from San Diego, California, sent this message:

I am not sure that you are getting a true perspective from those teenagers. Your regular teenager does not listen to BBC world news. They are above average for sure and I am sure they have good, responsible parents who actually know how to bring up their children.

Vanessa in Nairobi admitted to using her mobile a lot and her mother, Joanna, said that she disapproved of it because Vanessa used it when she should be doing her homework.

Tedla in New York City wrote:

I have 3 school age children and they are great fans of baseball and football and they are allowed to use the computer besides for their homework only to see the scores of their favorite teams. We made them to swim and biking 2-3 times after school and we do not encourage sedentary habits in our home. Our children's physical activity has a higher priority than playing games in front of a tv monitor.

Vinnie and Tumelo said their lives were better than those of their parents in the apertheid era. Manya said they were exposed to more technology than their parents were, which was a good thing.

We then went on to talk about Madonna's sell out concert tonight in Moscow, which has been criticised by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Marlon said he didn't mind her. Vinnie and Tumelo said they weren't fans. Manya said she didn't really like her.

We then heard from Artyom Troitsky, a DJ and music journalist in Moscow. He said it wasn't a very clever move by the Orthodox Church who were following the Vatican's lead in complaining about the singer.

He said a lot of his friends and relatives who are Orthodox Christians would have gone to the concert if they could have afforded tickets.

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