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Children "poisoned" by modern life

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  • Children "poisoned" by modern life

    Open letter in today's Telegraph newspaper:

    Modern life leads to more depression among children

    Sir - As professionals and academics from a range of backgrounds, we are deeply concerned at the escalating incidence of childhood depression and children’s behavioural and developmental conditions. We believe this is largely due to a lack of understanding, on the part of both politicians and the general public, of the realities and subtleties of child development.

    Since children’s brains are still developing, they cannot adjust – as full-grown adults can – to the effects of ever more rapid technological and cultural change. They still need what developing human beings have always needed, including real food (as opposed to processed “junk”), real play (as opposed to sedentary, screen-based entertainment), first-hand experience of the world they live in and regular interaction with the real-life significant adults in their lives.

    They also need time. In a fast-moving hyper-competitive culture, today’s children are expected to cope with an ever-earlier start to formal schoolwork and an overly academic test-driven primary curriculum. They are pushed by market forces to act and dress like mini-adults and exposed via the electronic media to material which would have been considered unsuitable for children even in the very recent past.

    Our society rightly takes great pains to protect children from physical harm, but seems to have lost sight of their emotional and social needs. However, it’s now clear that the mental health of an unacceptable number of children is being unnecessarily compromised, and that this is almost certainly a key factor in the rise of substance abuse, violence and self-harm amongst our young people.

    This is a complex socio-cultural problem to which there is no simple solution, but a sensible first step would be to encourage parents and policy-makers to start talking about ways of improving children’s well-being. We therefore propose as a matter of urgency that public debate be initiated on child-rearing in the 21st century this issue should be central to public policy-making in coming decades.

    Professor Peter Abbs, University of Sussex,
    Liz Attenborough, Manager, Talk to Your Baby Campaign
    Robin Balbernie, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist,
    Jean Barlow, Teacher Consultant, Rochdale Children’s Trust,
    Sally Barnes, Writer and consultant on early years education
    Geoff Barton, Headteacher King Edward VI School, Suffolk
    Camilla Batmanghelidjh, Founder, Kids Club
    Virginia Beardshaw, CEO, I CAN
    Dr Robert Beckford, University of Birmingham, Documentary maker ,Professor of African Diasaporin Studies
    Professor Ron Best, Roehampton University
    John C. Beyer, Director of Mediawatch UK
    Sir Richard Bowlby, President, Centre for Child Mental Health
    David Brazier, Author, abbot
    Professor Tim Brighouse, Commissioner for London Schools
    Mick Brookes, General Secretary, National Association of Head Teachers
    Professor Greg Brooks, University of Sheffield
    Dr Christopher Houghton Budd, Economic historian
    Christabel Burniston, President, The English Speaking Board
    Jean Clark, Fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
    Paul Cooper, Editor, Soccer Coaching International
    Pie Corbett, Author and literacy consultant
    Arthur Cornell, Chairman, Family Education Trust
    Jill Curtis, www.familyonwards.co.uk
    Professor Tricia David, Canterbury Christchurch University College
    Marion Dowling, President, British Association of Early Childhood Education
    Dr John Dunford, General Secretary, Association of School and College Leaders
    Margaret Edgington, Early Years specialist consultant and author
    Peter Elfer, Early Childhood Studies, Roehampton University
    Michele Elliot, Director, Kidscape
    Professor Colin Feltham, Sheffield Hallam University
    Anne Fine, Author and former Children’s Laureate
    Helen Freeman, Director of Publications, Scholastic Magazines
    Dr Marilyn Fryer, C.Psychol. The Creativity Centre Ltd.
    Di Gammage, Play Therapist, University of Plymouth
    Jan Georgeson, University of Gloucestershire
    Melanie Gill, Child forensic psychologist, Commonsense Associates
    Christopher Gilmore, Atma-Dovetales Educational
    Sally Goddard Blythe, Director, Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology
    Diana Goodey, Educational author
    Prue Goodwin, Literacy specialist, University of Reading
    Rob Grant Lecturer, in Development Economics, University of East Anglia
    Baroness Susan Greenfield, Director of the Royal Institution
    Dr Natasha Grist, University of East Anglia
    Andrea Halewood, Chartered Counselling Psychologist, Roehampton University
    Grethe Hooper Hansen, Former head of S.E.A.L., educational consultant
    Robert Hart, Analytical Psychologist
    Colin and Jacqui Hawkins, Children’s authors
    Sylvie Hétu, International trainer, International Association of Infant Massage
    Brenda Hobbins, Founder, Osiris Educational
    Patrick Holford, Chief Executive of the Food for the Brain Foundation
    Dr Richard House, Research Centre for Therapeutic Education, Roehampton University
    Dr Frances Hutchinson, Economist
    Virginia Ironside, Journalist and author
    Julie Jennings, Chair of the Early Childhood Forum
    Sue Johnston-Wilder, Senior Lecturer in Mathematics Education, Open University
    Dr Paul Kelly, Senior Clinical Psychologist
    Martin Large, Author of Set Free Childhood
    Dr Penelope Leach, Author, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Institute for the Study of Children, Families & Social Issues, Birkbeck College, London
    Dr John Lees, University of Greenwich
    Professor Del Loewenthal, Roehampton University
    Dr Christine Macintyre, Hon Fellow, University of Edinburgh
    Neil McLelland, Chief Executive, National Literacy Trust
    Dr Peter Martin, Principal Lecturer in Counselling Psychology, Roehampton University
    Mildred Masheder, Writer on childhood, author of Positive Parenting
    Dr Brien Masters, Director, London Waldorf Teacher Training Seminar
    Dr Roland Meighan, Educational publisher and author of Comparing Learning Systems
    Montessori Education UK
    Michael Morpurgo, Author and former Children’s Laureate
    Professor Janet Moyles, Emeritus professor at Anglia Ruskin University
    Craig Newnes, Editor of Making and Breaking Children’s Lives
    Vincent Nolan, Synectics Education Initiative
    Chris Oakley, Psychoanalyst, The Site for Contemporary Psychoanalysis
    Haya Oakley, Hon Sec of The College of Psychoanalysts
    Lynne Oldfield, Director, London Waldorf Early Childhood Training Course
    Jayne Osgood, Senior Research Fellow, London Metropolitan University
    Sue Palmer, Literacy consultant and author of Toxic Childhood
    Dr Lindsey Peer, CBE
    Prof Michael A. Peters, University of Illinois
    Gervase Phinn, Former school inspector and author
    Professor David Pilgrim, Clinical psychologist and academic author
    Sir Jonathon Porritt, Environmental campaigner
    Denis Postle, Psychotherapist and author of The Mind Gymnasium
    Linda Pound, Early Years Consultant
    Philip Pullman, Author
    Tom Raines Editor, New View magazine
    Dr Graham Rawlinson, Educational psychologist, University of Sussex
    Professor Colin Richards, HMI (ret.)
    Dr Alex Richardson, Mansfield College, Oxford; author of They Are What We Feed Them
    Denise Roberts, Editor, My Child magazine
    Veronika Robinson, Editor of The Mother magazine
    Dr Dorothy Rowe, Psychologist and writer
    Professor Andrew Samuels, University of Essex
    Sally Schweizer, Early Childhood Advisor, teacher trainer, author of Well, I Wonder
    Wendy Scott, Former early years adviser to the DfES
    Dorothy Selleck, Early Years consultant
    Dr Aric Sigman Writer, broadcaster and author of Remotely Controlled
    Pippa Smith and Miranda Suit, Co-founders of Media March UK
    Professor Margaret Snowling, University of York Professor
    Ernesto Spinelli, Psychotherapist and counselling psychologist, Regent’s College, London
    Dr Pat Spungin, www.raisingkids.co.uk
    Dr Stephen Sterling, Academic and author of Sustainable Education
    Professor Brian Thorne, University of East Anglia and the College of Teachers
    Dr Sami Timimi, Consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, Lincolnshire
    Nick Totton Editor, Psychotherapy and Politics journal
    Dr Rona Tutt Consultant, Speaker and Writer
    Norman Wells Director, Family Education Trust
    Dr David Whitebread, University of Cambridge
    Hilary Wilce, Columnist and author of Help Your Child Succeed At School
    Bryony Williams, Nursery manager
    Jacqueline Wilson, Author and Children’s Laureate
    Sarah Woodhouse, Right From the Start education and support project for parents
    Supplementary articles at:
    Junk culture 'is poisoning our children'
    Lost childhoods (Leader)
    Modern life 'poisoning' childhood

    Personally, I'm in two minds about this sort of thing. As a parent I'd be quite happy to see less marketing targeted at children - especially on TV - and I think that schools are too obsessed with League tables and less concerned with 'education' these days. On the other there is a sense of the 'luddite' coming from some of the people talking about this subject, and I also wonder what some of the signatories' private agendas are. (I'm instinctively suspicious of anything John Beyer of MediaWatch UK puts his name to. )
    _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
    _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
    _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
    _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

  • #2
    Thanks for posting this David, I would tend to agree with the general statements, but as you say be wary of possibe agendas. These kinds of questions, observations, and investigations are extremely important in an immediate sense if you have kids, and will soon be just as important for those without kids as the common culture is further impacted.
    "A man is no man who cannot have a fried mackerel when he has set his mind on it; and more especially when he has money in his pocket to pay for it." - E.A. Poe's NICHOLAS DUNKS; OR, FRIED MACKEREL FOR DINNER

    Comment


    • #3
      Apologies for the length of this. Let's take this letter apart.

      Firstly, I would like to see some evidence for this:
      Since children’s brains are still developing, they cannot adjust – as full-grown adults can – to the effects of ever more rapid technological and cultural change.
      As I was under the impression that children were supposed to be beter at adapting to new situations (cultural change) than adults. They pick up new languages more quickly and, in the majority of cases, cope with the breakdown of their family units surprisingly well and often better than adults.

      As for adjusting to rapid technological changes: assuming that a child is someone between the ages of four and sixteen, we are talking about a period of twelve years during the first part of which technology will have very little impact on Junior. What sort of rapid technological change is so massive as to have a major impact in twelve years? Computers? The Internet? Both developed over a longer period of time than that. Perhaps the authors are worried about the advent of Blu-Ray and High Definition TV? In actual fact, one of the most far reaching recent decades of rapid technological change from a cultural perspective would have been the mid 1940's to the mid 1950's with the develepment of such things as nuclear weapons and the jet engine. Strangely, the children of the time were not all struck down with depression at the thought of imminent nuclear destruction.

      This
      They still need what developing human beings have always needed, including real food (as opposed to processed “junk”), real play (as opposed to sedentary, screen-based entertainment), first-hand experience of the world they live in and regular interaction with the real-life significant adults in their lives.
      Is as true now as it was in the 1960's and 1970's when I was a child and people were saying exactly the same things. Basically, parents need to take an interest in their children and allow them the sort of diversions listed in moderation. This is neither novel nor controversial. There is a debate as to how more parents can be encouraged to do this, but it is hardly a crisis that has suddenly come upon us.

      They also need time. In a fast-moving hyper-competitive culture, today’s children are expected to cope with an ever-earlier start to formal schoolwork and an overly academic test-driven primarycurriculum.
      I actually agree with this, but having been drilled for public school entry from the age of seven, taken said entry exams at nine, and then been examined every successive year until leaving school, I think that it is fair to say that this is not a new phenomonen, it has simply worked its way down the academic scale somewhat.

      And here comes the crunch:
      a sensible first step would be to encourage parents and policy-makers to start talking about ways of improving children’s well-being. We therefore propose as a matter of urgency that public debate be initiated on child-rearing in the 21st century this issue should be central to public policy-making in coming decades.
      It is notable that nearly all these 'professionals and academics from a range of backgrounds', appear to have a vested interest in the areas of child rearing, psychology, or both. Try Googling a few of the ones who don't explicitly say what they do and see what you come up with. The others on the list (e.g. John Beyer) are well known as having axes to grind about the breakdown of culture.

      In conclusion, what we have here is a letter containing for the most part a set of well worn 'concerns' about the pernicious effect of our culture on children saying nothing substantive that hasn't been heard for the last forty years at least, signed by a list of people who want to raise their and their professions' profiles in the public arena.

      Comment


      • #4
        interesting to discuss ......

        What is strange is that they don't discuss the TV rffect.

        There is a correlation beetwen overweight and time of TV looking . And If there are educationals programs, TV time is taken on time devoted to playing reading and other activities.

        Psychologically, TV is anti educationnal because it does not teach effort but passivity and promotes confusion beetwen real world and TV world.

        Comment


        • #5
          A full reply WILL come later-- (that sounds suspiciously like a threat )

          I tend to agree with johneffay. While I may agree with some of the scholars' sentiments, I agree with them (and not even most of them) as opinions. Call me an empiricist, but I would like a little proof.

          Comment


          • #6
            I once saw a documentary called The Corporation (one of Jerico's recommended films). In it, a corporate marketing executive mentions how they deliberately target the young because, by the duckling principle, if they can get people habituated to respond to marketing at an early age the trend will continue in later life.

            Comment


            • #7
              Two things are true :

              - obesity is more and more a modern phenomen ........

              - young people don' t learn what was required of us ......

              The loss of the traditionnal culture means a loss of critical spirit ... and a vulnerability to propaganda,

              What is shown or said at TV becomes truth .......

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Morgan Kane
                The loss of the traditionnal culture means a loss of critical spirit ... and a vulnerability to propaganda,

                What is shown or said at TV becomes truth .......
                I can't back this up right now but I once read that the brainwaves of the mind change almost as soon as you sit down to watch a tv screen, making the mind more receptive to suggestion. I'll have to dig up an article if I can find one.

                Comment


                • #9
                  In 1984, Orwell predicted that some events will be thrown down in memory holes, events displeasing the powerful !

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The threat of subliminal messages is always a possibility when an individual watches prerecorded television/video programs.
                    During the 2000 U.S. presidential campaign, a television ad campaigning for Republican candidate George W. Bush showed words (and parts thereof) scaling from the foreground to the background on a television screen. When the word BUREAUCRATS flashed on the screen, one frame showed only the last part, RATS. Democrats promptly asked the FCC to look into the matter, but no penalties were ever assessed in the case. The effect this had on the overall presidential race was unclear. The Democrats and Al Gore received ridicule for finding malicious intent in something that could have been a simple mistake; the Republicans received ridicule for the lack of attention to detail and Bush's mispronunciation of "subliminal" (it came out as "subliminable").

                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subliminal_message

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I highly doubt this is the first time or place in which people have bemoaned the effect of modern culture on the next generation.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Dolphan
                        I highly doubt this is the first time or place in which people have bemoaned the effect of modern culture on the next generation.
                        I agree, but I also think that people are willing to attribute greater effects of contemporary culture on the present generation of adolescents than on past generations. Much of this comes from recognizing the acceleration of culture that some critics have hammered. Whether those effects are real or imagined is an open question of course.

                        Having said that, I have to reiterate my agreement with your observation. After all, Rock and Roll was supposed to destroy America.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Balance in Modern Life

                          Interesting discussion. As a mother I'm always worrying if I spend enough time with my daughter, if I smother her and don't allow her enough independence, if I'm pushing her to learn too much or not enough.

                          I worry about her being exposed to adult content on the internet, &c. so I install filters and have the computer in our living room, not a secluded area. Same with TV. There are certain channels to which we don't subscribe and I carefully consider what our daughter can and can't watch. I explain to her why she can't watch something and she seems to understand and accept this. Of course, we can always turn the TV off, too. TV doesn't have to be bad, in moderation. There actually are some good educational programs (or programmes, if you Brits prefer.)

                          As for TV brainwashing people with subliminal advertising-- yes, advertisers do their best to affect people psychologically. I'm nearly finished with a degree in graphic design and have learned about the psychological tricks. I don't like that part of advertising. I hate marketing. But to counteract the effect of advertising (and movies and TV shows) I tell my daughter all about how advertisers and producers manipulate images and use other tricks to deceive people. As viewers and consumers, we don't have to be passive. We can educate ourselves and our children. We can be smart enough to see through these ploys and teach our children to see through them also.

                          Before we had television and the internet to brainwash us, we had radio, billboards, magazine ads, and Hollywood. And before that we had priests and other purveyors of dogma to spread propaganda and compete for the control of a malleable populace.

                          If you don't want to be suckered, don't be. If you don't want your kids' brainwashed, educate them, give them the tools they need to resist the bombardment. And that's probably the difference between 'then' and 'now.' Same shit, but more of it. Modern technology has provided more venues, so we feel bombarded with advertising, and we are, but it just means we have to say 'no' more often.

                          So, are children poisoned by modern life? I don't know. I hope not. I have enough to worry about. How much is legitimate concern and how much is fear-mongering?

                          Regarding testing in schools: I think testing sucks. I don't think it really reflects how much a person has learned. It seems that schools just push from one test to another instead of actually teaching anything. "Rote learning" is an oxymoron. Memorizing facts is not the same as actually learning them. Testing is not an accurate gauge of understanding. Education was getting better in the U.S. until Bush inflicted his "Every Child Left Behind" campaign on us.

                          I guess I'll leave it there before I go on a Bush rant.
                          WWED -- What Would Elric Do?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            As a doting father who works in advertising I find this issue interesting. Please note marketing and advertising are related but seperate industries.

                            First, I have heard many times that young people are targetted as some kind of plot to create generations of consumers, but I have never heard this from anyone who actually works in advertising. Certain preferences can be decided at an early age, beer is one here in Japan, but as people grow their tastes change, and advertising changes accordingly. Consumer trends lead advertising, not vice versa, if we could manipulate the consumer as well as we are said to we would be setting trends, not exploiting them.


                            Products are targetted at the consumer who is likely to buy them, the youth market is very difficult to predict or control, some companies obviously target children, or parents of children, but I think everyone can see through the transparent strategy of a hamburger chain telling you if you stuff your kid full of additives and give them cheesy plastic toys your child will love you. I can only apologize for the lack of cunning subliminals in this facile and jaded type of campaign, and look forward to the day when I am hearing complaints that organic food companies are targetting children with dubious messages like eating bran and taking a huge dump is the height of cool.

                            As an advertiser I find myself very much in sympathy for those that say media is too intrusive, this is also a huge problem for us (if I was at work I'd be saying "opportunity"). The reality is that this has become a vast amount of noise, which makes it harder to reach the consumer, not easier. Sadly the effectiveness of advertising has less to do with the creative and entertaining side, and a lot more to do with the amount of noise you can generate and control, hence the fragmentation of advertising media.

                            I'd write more but I have my daughter on my lap and she is being very endearing.
                            http://final-frame-final.blogspot.com/

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