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 363.

    My 11 year old is, thankfully, still quite a child. He loves hugs and has soft toys and likes to cook with me. He does not have a mobile or a TV in his room or any way to access the web unless it's in the family room. We have explained the needless 'buying of affection' that parents do and he understands. What I dread is when he goes to senior school and mixes with 16 year olds. It's so wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    As my previous comment? was banned, let me just say this. If the school children who get on the bus I use to get to work are not an example of the headline then I will stand corrected.
    This is an observation nothing more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    If it is accepted that modern childhood ends at 12, maybe laws should changed to identify, name and shame all of the little dears who turn to crime at an early age.

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.


    What's wrong with being white, Fred? Does being white or middle classed mean someone has less understanding of children?

    And what makes you think you know the complexion or 'class' of netmums respondents? How do you know whether they spend more time on the internet than bringing their kids up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    "Speaking as a mother..."

    Right, so speaking without any actual weight or authority then, gotcha ;)

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

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

    Parents not taking responsibility again - let's blame someone else! If you don't want your child to grow up too soon then teach them some values, such as £800 spent on Christmas presents ( as I heard one mother say she paid out last year ) is way too much.

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    I think netmums are having a hissy over the sexualisation of children, particularly girls. But that's your fault netmums, not society's. And young boys becoming "macho". Sorry, that's called testosterone and cannot be helped except by castration. Strong male figures are required in these boys lives then netmums, not whinging mums.

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    My great great grandad worked from age 9 to 73 as a coal miner so had no childhood.
    I have children myself 1 wanted to grow up too fast and 1 is happy still being a child at almost 15

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    Ironic that whilst children now grow up so fast, as young adults they are more immature than ever

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    tell that to milliband

  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

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

    I think you'll find the factory acts of the 1830s banning child labour, the compulsory education from 1870 and the wealth of 19th century childrens' literature (and toys) counter evidence to that assertion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    A few hundred years ago kids as young as 10 were working in dangerous jobs that adults would not want to do today. That is not something I would want to see a return too. But neither should kids be mollycoddled to a point where they are totally unprepared for the world when they reach adulthood.

    And compared to kids in the 3rd world our kids are exceptionally lucky.

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    The smugness of the netmums is nausiating.
    This is not research it is just the opinion of internet addicted parents who should be spending their time actually with their children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    Odd how some posters clearly think it is OK for them to use the internet but not for mums.

    Also odd how others use child workers, in our past and in other countries today, to counter claims that there are excessive childhood pressures to act tough or be sexually active. The fact of Victorian chimney sweeps does not mean we should lower the age of consent to 12.

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    As a 28 year old male I can see how the world has changed in a few short years. Smart phones, sexting, Facebook, Rhianna et al, have all made sex so prominent, and it's targetting younger and younger people. I think there's a lot of people who still don't realise the graphic nature of things available to all online, and how this affects the mindset of young people, and their outlook on life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    Netmums ugh! Middle class white over ambitious neurotics spending more time on the internet than with their children then blaming everyone else.

    Parents are the authority figure and are responsible for bringing their children up - nobody else.

    Another example of the ghastly of entitlement without responsibility and then blame everyone else mentality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    How is 'childhood' being defined? If it means lack of awareness of the complexity of the adult world, then 12 is probably about right. Fifty years ago, I can remember the harsh realities of life creeping up on me at around this age. I think the prep and middle school systems that start senior school at 13 have probably got it about right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    Round here most kids are regularly getting drunk by age 11, I was looked upon as some kind of a freak because I wasn't bothered about alcohol. I sometimes wondered, even at school, whether some of my classmates even had parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    Most people used to be regarded as adults by age 12, in many places they still are - mainly being a wage or agricultural slave or a wife at risk from young childbirth. It's better if people have longer before they take on adult duties, but giving them some responsiblities helps them. So many kids in all 'classes' are handed life on a plate, they find it hard when they have to shift for themselves.

  • Comment number 344.

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


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