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Sleepwalking into a crisis of childhood

“Children these days are stuck. They stay at home and stare at a screen. They’re not off their phones – ever.”

– Norman Williams, 72. Grandfather of 17.


Pressure to achieve at school. Pressure to fit in. Pressure to have the latest gadgets and devices. Pressure to conform. Bullied at school and at home too. Concerned about terrorism, the environment and Brexit. Unable to switch off. Childhoods getting worse. It’s a bleak picture indeed. 

Bleak perhaps, but for parents, grandparents and children alike, the picture painted is, in all likelihood, a familiar one.

The issues above are no doubt recognisable for most with adolescent affairs at heart. 

These are all things that have been on our radar at CPUK for quite some time.

This week, they’ve made it onto the national news agenda.

This is thanks, in no small part, to new research – conducted by the charity, Action for Children – that has been making headlines in recent days.

The figures arising from the report have been used, in some quarters, as a political football, prompting criticism, finger pointing and the apportioning of blame.

For us, however, this isn’t about policies, parties or Parliament. 

It’s about shining a light on the issues and bringing such things out into the open. It’s about raising awareness, and then taking steps to tackle such troubles. It’s about recognising that childhood is getting more difficult to negotiate, with social pressures greater than ever and the issues intensifying. It’s about informing, educating and drawing a line in the sand.

In order to do so, that bleak picture must be considered for a moment.

Five thousand UK children, parents and grandparents were surveyed – leading to a strong shared perception that ‘childhoods are getting worse’. 

Two-thirds of the adults questioned came to this conclusion, with one in three children in agreement.

Bullying – both online and offline – was identified as a major concern, with young people deemed to be under ‘unprecedented social pressures’, a situation exacerbated by social media.

In addition, wider anxieties include so-called ‘adult’ issues – with children concerned about matters including Brexit, homelessness, sexism, racism and climate change. 

Poverty, domestic abuse and the fear of going hungry are things closer to home that are troubling more and more young people in our midst. Put it all together and it’s a potent mix.

‘The country is sleepwalking into a crisis in childhood, and far from being carefree, our children are buckling under the weight of unprecedented social pressures [and] global turmoil,’ said Julie Buckley, the Action for Children chief executive, who has called upon the Government to implement a National Childhood Strategy, focused on such issues.

In response, the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, said: ‘I certainly recognise the pressures and worries that young people feel. Growing up has never been easy, but technology and social media can exacerbate the need to fit in and the perception of others’ perfect lives, as well as making it harder to leave behind bullying at the school gates.’

This is not, as stressed above, a political post and although this has been presented elsewhere as an argument, it heartens us that ‘both sides’ appear to be in agreement on the most pertinent points here:

That adolescence is renowned as a difficult period. 

That modern life has added to the stresses and the strains. 

That social media – and spending time ‘staring at a screen’, as Norman Williams, a concerned grandfather from Devon, described it to the BBC this week – is taking its toll. 

That bullying is harder than ever to escape and peer pressure intensifying. 

That, with greater access to information, young people are more anxious about ‘adult’ issues. 

That poverty, and all it entails, remains a problem – with consequences for mental health and happiness. 

The issues above are no doubt recognisable for most with adolescent affairs at heart. 

These are all things that have been on our radar at CPUK for quite some time.

Is YOUR child down, worried or anxious? We can help. 

Like to talk more about our services, or the issues raised in our blog? Please contact us here.

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