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The Future of Childhood

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James Wilson

on 3 December 2015

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Transcript of The Future of Childhood

The Future of Childhood
The future of childhood
Children gaining more rights. Could this be a sign that children are becoming more powerful and the distinction between adults and children is breaking down? Is childhood as we know it in western society disappearing?

Sociologists have put forward several different answers to these questions.
The disappearance of childhood
Neil Postman (1994):

Childhood 'disappearing at a dazzling speed'
Points to disappearance of children's traditional unsupervised games,
Growing similarities between adult's and children's clothing,
Cases of children committing adult crimes
Blames TV
Middle Ages: Most people illiterate, speech the only skill needed for participation so children could enter the world from an early age. No division between adults and children.

19th Century onwards: Childhood emerged as a separate status alone with literacy. Created an information hierarchy around the printed word.. Adults could keep power and knowledge about sex, money, violence, illness, death and other adult matters. These things became mysteries to children.

Why childhood has disappeared: Television blurs the distinction between childhood and adulthood by destroying the information hierarchy. TV does not require special skills to access it. This leads to the disappearance of childhood
A separate childhood culture
Iona Opie (1993), unlike Postman, argues that childhood is not disappearing.

Conducted research into children's games, rhymes, songs and found the continued existence of a separate children's culture.

Contradict Postman's theory that children's games are dying out.
The globalisation of western childhood
Child liberationists/conflict view see childhood as oppressive and subject to adult authority.

Far from disappearing, they are expanding and becoming globalised.

International humanitarian export western view norm of childhood.

Ideas of separate life stage, nuclear family and school, innocence of children and dependent on adult financial support.

Examples: Campaigns against child labour and street children in the Third World. Imposing western view of childhood on places where activities are the norm and are based on preparation for adult life.

Childhood is therefore seen as spreading,
not disappearing.
Lesson Objectives
Postman's study is valuable in showing how different types of communication technology (TV and print) can influence the way childhood is constructed.

He over-emphasises a single-cause, television, at the expense of others which have influenced the development of childhood (such as rising living standards and changes in the law).
Contradictory trends - the reconstruction of childhood
Sue Palmer (2006): 'Toxic Childhood'

Rapid technological and cultural changes in last 25 years have damaged children's physical, emotional and intellectual development.

Computer games, junk food, intensive marketing to children and long parent working hours and emphasis
educational testing.
Margo and Dixon (2006)
UK youth near top of international league tables for:
Drug and alcohol abuse
Early sexual experience
Teenage pregnancies
UNICEF (2007) - UK 21st out of 25
for children's well being.
Not all children are affected equally by negative trends

Depends on which aspect of childhood we look at. Some say changing, some say disappearing:
Children have more rights, but not equal with adults.
Similar activities: leisure, dress, diet etc.
Children economically dependent for longer.
Stranger danger.
Children greater access to means of communication
Exposure to violence and sex.
Ageing population due to falling
death and birth rates.

Qvortrup (1990): As the number of people with dependent children falls, the fewer voices there are for resources to go to children. This may lead to an isolated childhood experience and fewer children.

Difficult to predict how childhood will develop. Re-shaping childhood could be possible. The possibility of change shows how childhood is not fixed and is socially constructed.
Debate whether childhood is disappearing
Understand how the western childhood is being globalised
Be able to explain why childhood could be seen as being 'reconstructed'
Is childhood disappearing?
Are children growing up too quickly?
Groups of 4. 10 minutes

Use the documents you are given and discuss the topics given to you. Be prepared to feedback to the rest of the class on your thoughts on the topic.

Assess the view that childhood is disappearing (24 marks)
Most important
Least important
Rank the points in the following shape in terms
of importance for answering this question.
Extension: Be prepared to justify why you have put each one where you have and not somewhere else!
Teams of 2.
Get from one side of the board to the other (Red to red or blue to blue).
If you get a question right, you go again.
If you get a question wrong, it goes over to the other team.
Full transcript