Modern childhood 'ends at age of 12'

Soft toys Childhood ends too quickly, says parenting website

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Childhood is over for many children by the age of 12, according to members of a parenting website.

Netmums website users are complaining that children are under pressure to grow up too fast.

They say that girls are made to worry about their appearance and boys are pushed into "macho" behaviour at too young an age.

The website's co-founder Siobhan Freegard blamed a "toxic combination of marketing, media and peer pressure".

"The pace of modern life is so fast that it is even snatching away the precious years of childhood," she said.

"Children no longer want to be seen as children, even when as parents we know they still are."

"There needs to be a radical rethink in society to revalue childhood and protect it as a precious time - not time to put pressure on children to grow up far too fast," said Ms Freegard.

The website asked for its members' views and received more than a thousand replies.

The most common view - from more than two-thirds of this group - was that childhood was now over by the age of 12.

'Under pressure'

About a third of those replying to this online snapshot believed that childhood ended even sooner, at the age of 10.

Parents voiced concerns that children were being put under pressure to act older than their years.

Girls were made to worry about their appearance and their weight, boys were meant to act tough and both boys and girls were under pressure to take an interest in sex at too young an age.

"Children need time to grow and emotionally mature in order to cope with what life throws at them," says Ms Freegard.

This is the latest example of parental concerns about children growing up in an oversexualised culture.

Claire Perry MP, the prime minister's adviser on childhood, has warned about children accessing inappropriate material on websites or through mobile phones.

Another MP, Diane Abbott, attacked what she called the "pornification" of youth culture, in which young people were growing up in an environment of sexual bullying and explicit sexual images.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    Parents should first of all look to themselves. An old but valid saying is "it's all in the upbringing. Stop pointing fingers. My grandchildren dressed and acted their age at each stage due to good parenting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    "Netmums" website? No wonder the beeb has gone down the pan if this is what it does for "research".

    I'm reading the diaries of Samuel Pepys, you should see how good childhood was then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    Growing up in the West End of Newcastle in the 70's and 80's if you were a child you were a victim, we stopped being kids around 8 if I am being rose tinted about the memories. God knows what we'd have been like if we had TV like it is now convincing every talentless moron they can be famous for nothing other than existing, never mind the internet lol we thought porn was findin a few lucky pages

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    Do kids still climb trees,make rope swings on trees over streams,play hide and seek,ride bikes,get loads of bruises,learn from it,play kiss,cuddle and torture.I always picked torture for some reason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    Netmums.... says it all really..

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    "Netmums". Says it all really. Maybe less time on the 'net and more time with the kids would go some way to mitigating the perceived problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    Children are put under too much pressure, at such a young age in todays society. My 7 year old niece wouldnt get her school picture taken because she said she feels 'ugly and fat'. She must weigh about 3 stone shes so skinny. This is wrong, especially for young girls who are shown people to look up to who look like a wax model. Children should be allowed to be children for longer than 12 years

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    I think rights of the child have been interpreted as letting child have a lot of control and do as they please . Fear of BEING SEEN not to be looking after the child or using strong discipline has led to parents being over protective.12yr olds can take on responsibility- even paid work. SEX however has been thrust on them and there is a commercial aspect to this for profit which is disturbing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    Seeing parents worrying about huge unreasonable bills.
    Clothes for 3 year olds with sexual slogans.
    Ads everywhere saying “Buy this, Buy that”.
    Music, TV and games with violent, sexual content.
    Education pushing too hard, too soon and changing every 5 minutes.
    Bad diet.
    Must have this new mobile phone.

    The list is endless.

    Not only for children. The world needs a re-think.

  • Comment number 334.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    "Netmums website users are complaining that children are under pressure to grow up too fast."

    Or, to put it another way: a small number of mothers are complaining that they are not very good parents. There's nothing quite like taking responsibility for your own destiny, is there?

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    Childhood didn't even exist about 100+ years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    What exactly defines a child and the end of childhood? I think growing up is continuous and gradual process which goes at different rates for different individuals. Being 12, for some, marks the very beginning of puberty, and for others the beginning of emotional and psychological development. Let the child develop at their own rate, and don't have them cling to 'childhood'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    We tell our children to tell the truth.

    Bradley Manning did just that, and he will never see the sky again.

    Thanks to the USA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    @323 why can't children play out anymore? Do you mean because they might get run over by the large amount of traffic on roads or is it something to do with pedophiles?
    If it's pedophiles keep them away from churches and family and friends because they are more likely to abuse than a random stranger on the street.
    I don't get what you mean by "the society we now live in"

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    I can confirm that the teen peer pressure is, to some extent a British problem because our kids are not feeling it where we live now.

    But it could have been phrased differently because I'm sure a lot of victorian kids stuck down chimney's at 7 probably felt their childhoods had ended!

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    But they make up for it by being adolescence until they are 35.

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.


    "Childhood ends at 12? Wow. I must be a late developer, because I'm 24 and I don't feel like a real adult yet."

    Are you a man? Don't worry, that feeling is quite normal if you are

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    There is no discipline in schools and now in the home.

    Parents can't smack their kids - kids know this and abuse their parents.
    Teachers can't punish unruly pupils anymore - kids know this and abuse the teachers.
    The Police can't punish criminals - the criminals know this and abuse the law.

    Discpline and punishment are necessary to being those out of line back into line!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    If a child drowns in the sea-the parent has failed to protect the child.We do not blame the ocean.
    If a child is 'drowning' in this modern world,where corporations want not just your money-but your soul and that of your offspring:recognize the enemy.Defend yourself and your family.
    Use imagination,use love,give time:lead by example.Turn your phone off when with your kids.Don't blame the ocean.


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