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 483.

    Netmums is the legacy of Mary Whitehouse. A call for 'something should be done' but only if it conforms with their limited view and experience of the world.

    I would suggest one week spent in a children's care home for a bit of perspective.

  • rate this

    Comment number 482.

    When there are massive billboards of practically naked people on public transport, how are kids not going to be influenced? One thing that's often baffled me is that children are taught Sex Education at primary school - because they are explicitly TAUGHT these things, their minds wander. They want to know more, and that also means "trying" it out. Stop exposing kids to these things so early!

  • rate this

    Comment number 481.

    I believe what is missing from this is the progression of maturity after 12.
    You say childhood ends at 12 years old because kids are under pressure to look and be more adult but didn't we all do that at 12? Didn't we all want to be treated with more maturity and that's natural.

    What you find is around 14-16 there's a slight regression when we find our childish side again. Then we fully mature.

  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    Ironic that this article is illustrated with a photo of Disney toys. Childhood is the biggest marketing opportunity of all!

  • rate this

    Comment number 479.

    473. ilikelimes
    "You just thought you were."

    I meant rebel against your parents, not your peers. Surely that's obvious?
    Perhaps you were one of the few who didn't?

  • rate this

    Comment number 478.

    Get a grip.
    "Since 2000, the participation of child soldiers has been reported in most armed conflicts ... Although there are no exact figures, and numbers continually change, tens of thousands of children under the age of 18 continue to serve ... Some of those involved in armed conflict are under 10 years old."

  • rate this

    Comment number 477.

    If any under 12s are reading this, please ask your parents to block your access to shield you from these grown up discussions.
    You're still a child and should not worry your innocent little heads about such things.

  • rate this

    Comment number 476.

    Two years before GCSE is when youngsters have to take responsibility for themselves, because the world starts to make demands upon them as individuals. That's inescapable, because they know then that they are in the rat race.10-13 is the post primary/pre-teen period when they start to become self-aware, with the issues that brings. It's that 10-13 period that risks being lost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 475.

    I always felt that middle schools neatly solved this problem, by separating children 13 and under from much older and more grown up young adults. Sadly they are phasing them out where they still exist. Boys particularly seem to benefit, as they mature slightly later than girls. The private prep school system also keeps pupils to 13 before they go to their secondaries. Seems to work better that way

  • rate this

    Comment number 474.

    Just back from 3 weeks in Peru. One of the things which will stay with me is the maturity of the kids over there. They laugh, play, run around and have fun right into their teens. You see it everywhere, happy faces, a lack of consumerised 'pressure' But they also know how to earn a sole ($) off a tourist, whether it be a shoe shine or a pose for a tourist photo.

  • rate this

    Comment number 473.

    "My friends and I used to sneak clothes out in bags and get changed in alleys:)
    There's a bit of a rebel phase every teenager goes through."

    If your friends were all doing the same thing, then you weren't a rebel at all. You just thought you were.

    That's the phase that most teenagers really go through - extreme, predictable conformity coupled with strong internal denial about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 472.

    Babies in designer and branded dungarees at 6 months, little girls in stilletto's at 3 years old. Young kids dressed like miniature adults from when they can walk. Personal CD units and TVs and Mobiles phones at 5 or six? It isn't childhood ending at 12 thats the's childhood being taken away much earlier

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    Until 1959 there was an instant growing process called National Service for boys. Most benefitted from it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    I grew up in the 80s and most of my classmates lost their virginity between 13 and 16. All the boys liked porn. Noone was "damaged". Nothing new here

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    Those placing all the blame on parents alone need to get out more......

    ....for sure parenting can make a difference......

    .....BUT, you do not bring your kids up in isloation - even if you try hard to shelter them from society's excesses they still get exposed to it at friends' houses, the play ground etc......

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    There is no defining moment when childhood ends. It's all transition. I'm 19 and I still don't feel that I'm close to there yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    Furthermore, I think education stages is about right, my kids at 4 were both desperate to start school, my ten year old is looking forward (truly) to SATs tests as she expects to excel, and the move to secondary school is at the right time, my daughter's body is changing and her mind needs more expansion.
    The thing to do with kids of this age is not more mollycoddling, but more parental guidance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    at 10 years old my mother considered me too old to be playing with toys, so forbade me form getting more transformers, despite the fact that I have learning difficulties affecting coordination and they were recommended by specialists as ways of improving it.

    as an adult I started collecting them again.

    trying to force a child to grow up can and frequently does backfire

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    Surely childhood should end at 12? When did society decide that teenagers had a right to spend their teenage years acting like the lot I see in my area? They're not expected to be responsible these days and so act like it. And its a habbit too many now never grow out of. The number of 20 somethings who can't look after themselves is rediculous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    BBC please. I'm 18, love adventure time and play sonic the hedgehog.


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