I was struck by the story of the eleven year old Mexican boy who is going to university. Clearly this lad is a paleontology prodigy but how does this decision honour his childhood? I was relieved to learn that his mother had decided that he continue at school with children of his own age to help with his social development. However, this story does seem to accord with a broader trend you can observe in British culture of children growing up too fast.
On the illicit and clearly shocking side of this trend is the prevalence of guns and knives amongst teenage gangs and the use by schoolkids of mobile phones for amateur teenage porn. On the more subtle side is the way advertising and marketing is increasingly targeting children to groom the next generation of consumers.
At the centre of this is the sexualisation of childhood, particularly girls. A report by Compass entitled The Commercialisation of Childhood outlines this phenomenon with alarming clarity: lacy lingerie, for example, is marketed to under 10 year olds. I can think of an advert promoting a doll for girls which was highly sexualised. This is just one of the impacts of this trend. Others are equally worrying. What’s more, I fear we are yet to reap the full consequences of the commercialisation of kids.
One final thing I’d like to highlight is the huge pressure that is put on parents to spend by their children as a result. Given that so many parents are in debt anyway, encouraged by consumerism themselves, this can only lead to more stress. It’s a vicious and downward spiral.