Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

25 Years Later, Even More Hurried Parents

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

25 Years Later, Even More Hurried Parents

Article excerpt

Modern childhood, for all its abundant privileges and advantages, keeps falling on hard times.

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, David Elkind sounded one of the first alarms in his eloquent book, "The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast, Too Soon." He warned that pressure in the media, schools, and homes was forcing children to hurry through life, creating an assault on childhood.

That was also the era when Neil Postman published "The Disappearance of Childhood," making a case that the growth of electronic media exposes children to sophisticated information formerly out of bounds to them. That, he said, blurs the line between children and adults, eroding innocence.

In the decades since those books appeared, the pressures on children have only intensified. Dr. Elkind's classic book remains so relevant, in fact, that his publisher will soon issue a 25th- anniversary edition for a new generation of parents.

Another urgent warning comes from 110 teachers, children's authors, and psychologists who signed an open letter to the Daily Telegraph in London this month. They wrote darkly that "junk culture" is "killing" childhood, and that children are "being poisoned by modern life." They spoke of "toxic childhood" and "the death of childhood" as they listed negative influences, among them computer games, poor diets, and the stress brought on by highly competitive education.

No less eminent a figure than the Archbishop of Canterbury joined the chorus by describing a "crisis" of modern childhood. The Very Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams warns that parents are failing to demonstrate the right mix of love and support. As a result, they are rearing children who are growing up too fast, becoming "infant adults."

Sobering talk indeed.

Such cautionary tales can be useful reminders of the need to protect children. But if there truly is a "crisis" here - and that attention-grabbing word does tend to be overused - perhaps it's not just a crisis of childhood but of parenthood as well.

As carefully synchronized fathers and mothers shuttle between home and work, chauffeuring children to school, soccer practice, and music lessons, they may feel part of what some call a "family unfriendly" culture. …

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