America Needs to Put the 'Child' Back in 'Childhood'
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America Needs to Put the 'Child' Back in 'Childhood'

... and Fast!

America Needs to Put the 'Child' Back in 'Childhood'

I will never forget the cocker spaniel puppy stuffed animal I had, when I was a child. I still have it to this day, and it reminds me of my childhood and how to this day, I am a child at heart. My stuffed animal was the one object I could call mine. I could give it a name of my choice. I could make it dance and have a tea party with me. My cocker spaniel playmate even played doctor with me if I needed a patient.

Remember the days where you could truly be a kid and involve yourself in pretend-play and be creative where your imagination had no limits? Today, it angers me to see that the fourth graders in the class I interned for spent their time waiting for their buses by going on their phones watching six second videos on Vine on their iPod touches or cell phones with their group of friends instead of throwing a ball around or better yet… actually communicating. You know that thing you do where your mouth moves and words come out? Yeah...? Well that is called talking. Or do you know that thing you do where your eyes are aligned with another person’s eyes at the same time? Yeah...? Well that is called eye contact, in which you show another person you are exclusively involved in conversation with them. Both of these important ways of efficiently communicating are what children are lacking in today’s society.

Society is constantly kicking us forward enabling children to act older than they are and normalizing the abuse of technological resources. I recall when I was in preschool, it was a privilege to use a computer game for 15 minutes maximum. I never got to use technology 24-7. I played dress-up. I ran around outside. I was young enough where all boys had “cooties”, and a relationship was not even a vocabulary word in my mind.

I was a kid. But society has changed in the course of ten years. From womb to 12, young girls and boys are rushing themselves, physically and mentally, to grow up in this proliferating society leaving behind a childlike-childhood.

A childhood is supposed to be simply “the state or period of being a child; the period of life before puberty”. It’s a shame that a simple definition has turned out to be not so simple today. As our society advances, the period of childhood decreases. Technology plays a major role in taking away the identity: child. I remember writing something about technology that I strongly believed about, and one of the things I said was, “Babies are going to get their first cell phones before their first pacifier.” I understand that parents want to be in contact with their child for safety reasons, but if your child is being a child, then they do not need the additional social media on their phone devices. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the need of it to keep in touch to know your loved one is safe. However, a phone was primarily invented to make phone calls. So isn’t that all a child would need a phone for?

One day, a girl in my school tweeted a picture with the caption, “A generation at their finest”. It was a picture of two young girls at the end of a table taking a picture. They set up their two caramel Frappuccino’s on the table and were both taking a photo of it to post on their social media. If children cannot simply enjoy a drink at Starbucks together without sharing their trip of the day with the world, then America is… f****d!

Please excuse my language, but if this is what our society has come to, this needs to change. Childhood is life before puberty. It is a period of time before you are a grown up and have much more priorities. It is a time for you to find yourself and connect with others in a creative and collaborative manner without being pressured by society to be expected to act older.

Not only does technology affect the childhood of many, but so does the influence of body image through various media. For today's young girls, the pressure to look and be hot is greater than ever. Pageants are just one example of why kids anywhere from two years old and up are airing on well-known television shows like Toddlers and Tiaras. This is the age where they should be playing dress up and pretending they are like royalty instead of being covered with 100 pounds of makeup and one gallon of hairspray to be viewed as “perfect” by a panel of several judges. Pageants are beauty contests. Let that sink in or actually, let me rephrase it: a competition of who is prettier.

In my opinion, (almost) everything pageants stand for is wrong. Some may say, “It gives my child a chance to show their talent!” or “Pageants are not bad! They allow my child to feel confident which benefits them for the future.” Sure, that may be true, but little do parents know that if you start a child wearing makeup so heavily and having to look “perfect”, that habit will be extremely difficult to break. Also, you are teaching your child to focus on winning the pageant rather than feeling happy with themselves. Therefore, many children throw tantrums in their interview on the show. When families watch this, some parents assume that the content and ambiguity in the programming they are watching will go over their child's head, when, in reality, they are teaching their children what kind of behavior will help them get noticed.

Why would you want your little-one to grow up as a potentially self-conscious individual who cannot leave the house without makeup on and their hair “perfect”? Girls should not be worrying about their appearance and weight. All children should need to worry about is being a kid and learning life lessons: what is right versus what is wrong.

Not only are young girls affected but so are young boys. They are taught they should display “macho behavior” (Coughlan) which means to exhibit masculine confidence in regards to physical strength and various forms of sexual “appetite”. From day one, little kids have cute play dates co-ed, and when the two kiss, parents go “aw!”, but before you know it, your child gains easy access to the computer and sees Lil’ Poopy, an inappropriately named young rapper, grabbing and smacking booties one at a time on YouTube. Little boys should be picking gross dandelions from the ground and giving them to friends at this age, not thinking of girls being treated like that.

I am not saying all young children are acting this way. However, with iPhones being consumed faster than babies are being born, children are exposed to media and technology too soon. This causes their minds to be pulled away from their bodies, while it gasps for air to be a true child. It is important in this critical period of time in children’s lives to be exposed to child-like activities.

Because society has deemed childhood to “end” so soon, the effects on males and females when they grow up has been tragic. Teen pregnancy rates of females may be decreasing over the years, but there are still far too many occurring. For every 1,000 girls, 27 teen give birth. Even so, an additional problem is rape. It is committed most commonly by men whether they planned to rape or if they became too aroused where they would not stop even if the girl asked. It is said that 99% of rapes are committed by men. As children, the “macho” behaviour results in a sexual habit that can cause men to rape women. Let’s go back to Lil’ Poopy, the little rapper hitting butts. Children who watch him may think it is “right” because he is the same age. Who knows what it results as when older. It can only get worse and more sexual. This is not what children need to be exposed to whatsoever.

So how will we change this? What can we do to make a difference, so childhood is childlike? I propose this. For one, technology is a privilege. The way kids even get technology is from adults. At home, parents need to make time where their children are not using technology. Not only that, but during that time, parents need to do the same and spend time with their children. The parents are critical in making a childlike childhood a success. If parents choose to give their child a cell phone, they should use the Firefly brand specifically for calling parents and emergency phone numbers. Also, they could get the phones that are standard flip phones that really do not have many features. Decreased time in technology and limited use of technology will help even in the slightest of ways to prevent children from growing up too fast. Go outside more; physically live in the world you live in!

You are still a child at heart and need to get your education and be happy with yourself. Let’s utilize our schools to keep awareness throughout high schools across the United States.

The truth is, society itself will not change overnight, but the people in society can stand out and do something. Phones will not disappear, computers will always be around, and parents will parent the way they choose. Nevertheless, this does not mean we cannot make even just a bit of a difference in saving the childhood of children before it is too late.

Being a 'child' in childhood is critical. You’ll grow up someday and wish you had it back...

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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