Everything appears to be moving too fast for many reasons including technological shifts. The innocence of childhood once cherished and protected is disappearing fast. Carefree playtime is quickly getting replaced by accelerated adulthood. Here are some common ways we’re forcing children to grow up too fast and how we can stop.
One of the biggest factors in making children grow up too fast is exposure to mature content that is beyond their grasp. It could be anything from excessive violence to highly sexualized images. Early exposure to this kind of content can encourage them to seek it out and teach them things they shouldn’t be learning yet from inappropriate language to drugs, alcohol, and sex.
Social media worsens this by putting children in contact with all manner of people including bullies and sexual predators. Social media also promotes an unattainable lifestyle based on conspicuous consumption. This can put undue pressure on children leaving them feeling like they’re lacking whether materially or even in terms of their physical appearance. This kind of pressure forces children to grow up too fast. Parental guidance is critical when it comes to helping children develop healthy relationships and an understanding of the way media works.
Early responsibility and economic hardship
Some children are forced to take on responsibilities that are beyond their age. They may be forced to be self-sufficient because of absent parents or cultural expectations. Young girls, for example, are expected to work in the home in ways that are not culturally expected of boys. Most girls suffer early parentification where they are forced to take care of their younger siblings when their parents are away. This is worsened among poor and precarious people where children don’t just work in the home but also work outside the home to contribute to the home’s income. Being forced to take on adult responsibilities as a child is one of the things that makes children grow up too fast.
Lack of playtime
Children have less and less time to just play. A number of factors together conspire to reduce children’s playtime. In cities, playgrounds are not factored into the construction of neighbourhoods so children have nowhere to play. Public parks are also getting privatized and made inaccessible to most people, especially those with a low income. Parents and schools also put a lot more pressure on their children to perform with schools reducing break times. This pressure children are under to perform in school especially when it’s paired with threats of becoming a failure as an adult combine to force children to grow up too fast.
Social and political unrest
Children see more than adults imagine. They know when things are off not just in the home but in society in general. When there’s uncertainty, they pick on that which can give them stress. It can be anything from environmental to financial uncertainty. If things are so bad that there’s violence such as in the case of war, children are forced to grow up way too fast. Other traumatic events like the loss or illness of a parent, domestic violence, and childhood abuse also force early adultification on children.
Let children play, protect them from early responsibility, and don’t put pressure on them to perform academically or risk becoming failures in the future. Childhood lasts for such a short time and we need to focus on protecting them from the tedium and horrors of adulthood as long as possible.
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