As the oldest of three girls, I take notice to the ways my sisters grow up versus the way I grow up. My sisters are 15 and 12, and their maturity levels are vastly different than me at their ages.
My 15 year old sister wears makeup, has a very serious boyfriend, and wears underwear from Victoria’s Secret. When I was 15, I had just discovered mascara and I was still wearing training bras.
Maybe I just matured slower than my sister, but I have been noticing this trend for a while now. My sister started exhibiting signs of maturity by the time she got to eighth grade. Middle school is supposed to be that horrible, awkward time of your life where none of your clothes match and you wear exclusively glittery blue eyeshadow. So why was my 13-year-old (at the time) sister kissing boys and far too interested in her clothes?
The answer? The media.
The media in this day and age has a massive impact on our society - especially on the young and impressionable minds.
Bullguard did a survey of more than 2000 parents with kids between the ages of 8 and 12, and every single one of them were concerned that their youngsters were “growing up too fast.” Seventy seven percent of the parents blamed the Internet and peer pressure for their kids’ maturity, BUT 70 percent of the parents admitted that they allowed their kids to surf the net with absolutely no supervision. Fifty percent of parents felt comfortable with their 12-year-olds having a Facebook.
Surprisingly, parents were more okay with Facebook and YouTube accounts over email addresses. Most of the parents agreed that their child had to be 11 or 12 before getting an email. This shocked me a little bit. Emails are private and ONLY used for communicating with friends. I had my first email address when I was 9, and it was to talk to my friend who moved to Kentucky. My parents watched it carefully to make sure I wasn’t getting spam, but I only used it to talk to Christina and a few friends from school.
I would never be the person to tell someone how to raise their kids. I wouldn’t want someone in the future to tell me how to raise my kids, but, there are age restrictions on certain sites for a reason. Some may see it as censorship, but I believe age restrictions are precautionary. The survey said that the majority of the kids surveyed had a cell phone by the age of 10. I didn’t have a cell phone until I was 14 and I didn’t have one with Internet or even unlimited texting until I was a junior in high school.
The CEO of Bullguard, Nedko Ivanov, says, “Most children will pester their parents and demand the latest gadgets, but it's important to also take into account whether or not they're ready for what they might encounter and, if they do start using this sort of technology, to make sure they are safe online.” Mr. Ivanov may be onto something here. Kids are being exposed to more and more of the “real world” too soon. My Facebook is littered with politics, bigotry, religious preaching, and filth. I didn’t put it there, it just happens. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are completely public and the owner can’t really control what other people put out there.
Not to mention tabloids and television are definitely to blame. Teens are portrayed on TV by actors twice their characters age. Take stars like Victoria Justice, Dove Cameron, and Jennifer Lawrence, aged 23, 20, and 25 respectively. These lovely ladies play characters in high school (ages 14-16). Kids see their movies and think to themselves “that’s what 14 year olds are supposed to look” or “that’s how high schoolers are supposed to act” and mimic their behaviors.
Kids are maturing too quickly because of the Internet, television, and parents relaxed opinions on the matters. I may have only referenced one study in particular, but the Internet is full of studies just like this one. Everyone thinks kids are maturing too quickly.
What are you going to do to end stereotypes and help kids be kids?