Toxic Childhood – Real Phenomenom or an excuse for Bad Parenting?

Over the last 30 years behavioural problems in the UK have doubled and psychological problems have increased by 70% and each year 4,400 people commit suicide. Suicide is the most common cause of death among men under 35 in the modern world. (Link) ( 2012 the rate is only 6.5 in 100,000.) In one of UNICEF’s surveys regarding children’s wellbeing, UK came bottom, with USA just above. Following this development WHO (World health Organisation) predicts over 50% of children will suffer from mental instability and depression at some point in their lives.

Sue Palmer started a lot of debate with the release of her book Toxic Childhood, 2006. She explains that the modern world is developing is racing speed in which humans, especially children cannot keep up. She is researching whether something is interfering with children’s development. The numbers of developmental disorders are increasing amongst children; their emotional and intellectual development is being affected by the accelerating and stressful society around them.

In normal development from birth to teens:

distractibility →→              attention          =                 focused concentration

impulsivity                           →→              self-control       =                 deferred gratification

self-centredness                 →→              empathy           =                 consideration

These processes in development takes time and according to Palmer(2006) this development is disrupted by the high speed children are forced to develop in.

Instead of parents spending their spare – time with their kids, both parents spend all day at work with the kids in school or in front of the TV and when the whole family is home the kid(s) is parked by the TV or computer instead of practicing interaction with his/her parents or outside playing with friends. Their social learning is inhibited (Palmer, 2006). As direct consequence, children grow more self-centred and less considerate towards other human beings along with their communication skills development is being limited. Social skills cannot be learned through a TV or computer games, social interaction is needed.

Wendy Earle, 2006, brings other arguments to the debate. She mentions the fact that from the early 1900 to year 2000 society changed at the speed of light with machines and gadgets that, viewed from the bigger picture, appeared in a second. Children of the modern world need to be presented with these gadgets, because they are the future,  and that is how the future will be: run by technology.

Media is of course another aspect that contributes to the upbringing and psychological development of children. Children are from birth being brought in a world of consumption. From early years they are being raised by the TV and other media “to consume”. The whole: You need this to be Happy – thing. Which contributes to the idea that your life is eternally incomplete until you have purchased this gadget, as well as the obvious stress.

Technology isn’t all bad. Video games are the whole reason I learned English, no “ordinary” person at home over 35 can speak or read English properly. Because they never had the need for it, they didn’t have games in English or internet, all written in English. So factual learning went into overdrive when internet was introduced and faster mental development is possible. Instead of the younger asking the older for something, the roles have been reversed. Computers and the internet allow us to gain knowledge we otherwise would never obtain.

Nonetheless, social skills are still oh so necessary and the attention, care and affection given to children by their parents can never be replaced by technology – Technology should not serve as a substitute for parental nurture.

“Gadgets are cool and all, but we should use them as tools instead of gimmicks that mess us up”
-Popps class, Brigantia 342, 2012.