Saturday, 24 September 2011

It's bad parenting not the pressure of modern life that's the problem


We are told by “200 experts” that children’s health is being undermined by the pressures of modern life. 

“Although parents are now deeply concerned about this issue, the erosion of childhood in the UK has continued apace since 2006. Our children are subjected to increasing commercial pressures, they begin formal education far earlier than the European norm, and they spend ever-more time indoors with screen-based technology, rather than in active outdoor activity and play.”

Apparently – or rather according to unspecified “studies” – the ‘well-being’ of British children falls below some supposed international standard. And judging by the letter, this is despite parents being 'concerned'.

Now it seems to me that there isn’t a great deal of substance in this argument. It may be that our children are suffering because of “commercial pressures” but it is far more likely that the problem isn’t advertising, computers games or television but bad parenting.

Here’s one of the 200 making her point:

One study by Sally Goddard Blythe, the director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, concluded that up to half of children were not ready for school at the age of five because of “sedentary lifestyles”. They struggled to grip pencils properly, sit still, stand up straight and even catch a ball after failing to develop physical and communication skills at a young age.

It isn’t the “pressures of modern life” that’s causing this problem now is it, Sally? It’s the parents of these children – the ones who don’t play with them, who use the telly as a baby-sitter, feed them an endless soothing diet of fizzy drinks, sweets and chocolate and don't take them to the park.

So why do these “experts” take it upon themselves to challenge something called “modern life” rather than the failing parenting of some mothers and fathers (assuming the latter is anywhere to be seen)? I’m sure the children of these 200 ‘experts’ are not suffering in this way. I’m sure they’ll grow up active, able, well-adjusted and able to recognise advertising (and its purpose). Indeed, most children - a clear majority - will benefit from modern life, from the TV, from computer games, from computers and from the wonders these things bring into our homes.

But what these 200 "experts" propose is a collection of tired, old-fashioned ‘progressive’ solutions – banning advertising (there’s always a ban close to the surface when these so-called ‘experts’ write), replacing education with play and further interference in the curriculum of primary schools. And absolutely nothing – not even a mention – of poor parenting.

And it is parenting not modern life that is the problem.

No comments: