There is a big concern in the world today regarding childhood. Many people don’t understand the status of the highly cherished concept of childhood. The concept has become a topic of discussion in several disciplines, among them developmental psychology, sociology, and pedagogy. Very many views have been raised regarding the concept of childhood. On topic regarding childhood that has since become a matter of debate is the disappearing or changing nature of childhood. There are people in the world today who claim that childhood is disappearing. On the contrary, there are also people who are rubbishing the concept that childhood is disappearing (Buckingham, 2000, p. 5). This group of people claims that childhood is not disappearing but is changing its form and structure. Very extreme views have been raised. Some people have even claimed that childhood is as good as dead since its fast disappearing (Bruce, 2013, p. 77).
However, there is another group of people who are of the belief that childhood is alive. They believe that there are just some changes that childhood has undergone. The children of today have been fully empowered. They have also been liberated in a manner that has never been witnessed in the past. As at now, there are few systematic studies which have shed light on this topic. One such author is David Buckingham (Buckingham, 2008, p. 23). According to Buckingham, childhood is not disappearing. He is of the opinion that childhood is simply changing its form and structure. He advises that the society should forget about the idea that childhood is disappearing. Buckingham has carried out a study to establish whether childhood has changed or not (Eysenck, 2012, p. 81). From the results, he established that childhood is still the same today as it was several years ago. The only misleading aspect is the fact that Childhood today tends to copy the contemporary Western society which is completely different from the historical times. The author had the idea that childhood has been liberated and is of a different kind (Allison & Adrian, 2012, p.45).
By comparing the nature of human beings today and during the contemporary history, there seem to be some major differences. It is the differences that have prompted some people to believe that childhood is slowly disappearing (Buckingham, 2008, p. 23). The following are some of the reasons why people tend to believe that childhood is disappearing:
- Children have been given similar rights to those of adults. They are highly protected by law to the extent that they have to decide on whether to take or not to take orders from adults.
- Traditional games that were played by children have slowly disappeared. Children have instead embraced technical games that were traditionally reserved for adults only.
- Children today engage in extreme cases, for example, committing crimes such as murder that was traditionally associated with adults only. No one could ever imagine that a minor could commit murder. Children were brought up in an orderly and respectable manner that they could not ever think of committing such crimes.
Despite all these changes which have been witnessed in children, people must understand that childhood is not disappearing (Heywood, 2001, p. 76). Childhood is a stage that everyone must pass before they become adults. Instead, childhood is simply changing its form and structure. There are some innovations and changing trends that have forced childhood to change its form and structure. Let’s take the print culture for example.
During the 19th century, there was a hierarchy that had been created by the printed world. Children could not read a lot of materials as adults could do. Adults, therefore, managed to keep some information away from children. Knowledge and information regarding violence and sex were purely reserved for adults only. Children were therefore only associated with innocents and to larger extent ignorance (Wyse, 2009, p. 53). The culture of television has also emerged in the recent past and has hugely contributed to changing the structure and form of childhood. Television has erased the distinction that existed between childhood and adulthood. It has destroyed information hierarchy which has been existence since time in memorial. There are no special skills that children must acquire to access and operate televisions. Authority from adults is diminished. Children have become very knowledgeable from the contents that they have been able to access from televisions. As a result, their innocent has slowly disappeared, and they are not ignorant anymore (Johnston & Nahmad-Williams , 2008, p. 90). Children have spent a lot of time watching television instead of engaging in other social activities that promote childhood development. From the televisions, children have discovered that laws have since changed and they deserve to be treated with respect just the same way adults are respected. Children have also discovered that living standards have since changed (Wild & Street, 2013, p. 49).
According to Buckingham (2000), there is enough evidence that suggest that childhood is not disappearing. Childhood games are still being played by many children who have failed to get access to the innovative materials such as print media and televisions. It has also been observed that there is still clear distinction evidence between the children and adults. What should be clear to people is the understanding that children have developed the capacity to create and independent culture for themselves, a culture that is totally different from that of adults. David Buckingham states the digital media has played a great role in transforming the structure of childhood. He suggests that there is a need for adults, particularly parents to regulate the media which are used by children. There is a kind of schizophrenia which came with the invention of digital technologies. Digital media has been accused by many people of a being a bad influence on the behaviour of children. One major case that has been raised is the fact that children tend to imitate all that they observe and read from the digital media. Digital media has therefore on many occasions resulted in imitative violence. The shooting incidence which took place in 1999 at Combuline High School in the USA was blamed by many people to have been promoted by violent computer games that were commonly played by students in the school (Parker-Rees & Leeson , 2010, p. 65)
There were also people who believed that the students would have been influenced by the hate information that they accessed on some of the websites that they commonly visited. It is argued that website that spread hate behaviour negatively influences children (Sharman & Cross , 2007, p. 44). Children believe that what they observe in computer games is reality and hence they go ahead and try to copy them. The technology of computer games has also been said to have a bad influence on the development of brains of children (Buckingham, 2000, pp. 34-36). The children have become addicted to the games. As a result, they have no time to involve themselves in other activities that promote their physical and moral development so that they can grow to become responsible adults. Parents have been encouraged to invest in computers that would promote the education of their children. The move has been seen by many as the only way that would divert the attention of the children from the computer games that are not of great benefit to them (Buckingham, 2008). A good number of parents in the developed world have embraced the move and have gone ahead and bought their children computers that promote their education. However, many parents have failed to allocate enough time so that they can assist their children in using computers as education resource tool. Some parents also lack the expertise needed to operate the computers so that they can guide their children in using the computers (Bruce, 2013, p. 213). Some people may claim that the children have computers in school and hence the benefit they get from the school computers is enough.
The problem that comes with the use of school computers by children is the fact that the computers are inadequate in most cases (Palfrey & Gasser, 2011, pp. 19-21). There is also a limited time in schools when the children can freely access the computers. In addition, parents have failed to hold discussions with teachers so that they can iron out the issue. In most families, males are regarded as decision makers while females are regarded as people who are incompetence (Johnston & Nahmad-Williams , 2008, p. 117). Mothers are therefore rendered to the role of providing care to their children. Fathers, on the other hand, are the ones who are expected to guide the children in using computers as educational tools rather than playing toys. This has further reduced the possibility of potential support for the children (Kehily, 2008, pp. 36-37). Fathers rarely sit back at home with their children because they believe that it is the duty of mothers to spare some of their time so that they can be together with the children and in the process attend to their needs. David Buckingham states that there is a need for people to find out how they can strike a balance between aspects of education and entertainment from the new digital media. The use of digital media to advance entertainment among children is influenced by the children’s social relationships. Parents, therefore, need to find out how their children get information regarding new technology (Kehily, 2008, p. 37).
Some notions have been promoted in the Western world regarding children. People in the western world and their governments have developed some norms that have further changed the structure of childhood. They have reserved childhood as a separate stage of life that must be treated with a lot of care and concern (Valkenburg, 2004, p. 93). Children have therefore developed the feeling that they are crucial and deserve their space in the society. The western governments have also regarded children as people who are innocent at all times. They should not even be punished when they commit crimes because they still belong to the group of childhood. Children have been regarded as people who are very vulnerable and should not perform any economic role in the society. They are dependents who expect to be provided with all their needs and wants (Trevithick, 2005, p. 213). Today, the notion which originated from the western world regarding childhood has been globalized. The privileges that have been advocated for by western countries are currently promoted in all the countries of the world. Children have been placed in a comfort zone whereby they are provided with all the things that they require (Mook, 2016, p. 42). As a result, children have become idle. They have therefore remained with one role only, fighting with adults so that they can be accorded attention that they don’t deserve in the long run.
There are also campaigns that have been promoted in third world countries concerning children, particularly street children. Children closely monitor the campaigns and develop a feeling within them that they deserve better treatment than what they are being accorded. The westerners want the rest of the people to treat children the way they are being treated in the western world (Postman, 2011, p. 69). One thing that they have forgotten is that every community in the world has been able to bring up rightful children in the past and according to their respective cultures. There was no influence from any quarter during those years (Mook, 2016, pp. 42-44). The children had a lot of respect for their parents as well as other adults. They were well aware that they are minors in the society. They clearly understood that their duty was to take orders from adults without complaints at all times. In this view, it is very wrong for some people to believe that childhood is disappearing. Childhood is still in existence, and it is there to stay. We only have to accept the fact that its form and structure has greatly changed (Allison & Adrian, 2012, p. 42).The childhood stage is even likely to evolve further in the coming years if things are kept as they are today. There is a high likelihood that new technology that which has greatly contributed t the changes in childhood would improve even more in the future. The regulatory measure should, therefore, be put in place to ensure that children understand their childhood stage and all that is expected of them. They should understand that there are rights that are reserved only for adults. In addition, they must learn to take all the orders from adults whether they like them or not (Postman, 2011, p. 12).
There has been a major transformation in most families of the world. Since the 19th century, many families have moved from traditionally family set up to modern family set up. Modern family members have kept away from neighbours. They spend most of their time indoors. The change has been promoted by economic, cultural and social changes which came about during the Industrial Revolution (Parker-Rees & Leeson, 2010, p. 88). The revolution led to the division of labour and break-up of many family structures. Homes became very comfortable for many children. The homes provided them with a lot of comfort and security. They kept off from the harsh and demanding external environment. Families had clear structures with distinct boundaries between childhood and adulthood stages of life. The roles of people in each of the groups were also clearly defined (Palfrey & Gasser, 2011, p. 107). Children had a lot of respect for parents and adults in general. Orders from adults were always unquestionable. Moral values guided the children. Children regarded the childhood as a stage whereby they were expected to participate in their education, play children games and finally prepare themselves for adulthood (Nick, 2001, p. 53). The adults, on the other hand, insisted upon protecting the children from the harsh realities that are found in adulthood.
All events and activities that are done in adulthood were kept the secret to the children. Children’s innocence was therefore highly preserved. There were toys, clothes and literature books that were purely reserved for children. As time went by, the children’s world became very protected and isolated. The children were even separated from their parents in the houses in which they lived. They were mostly in the company of their tutors if they were not in nurseries. From the nurseries, the children managed to see their mothers for restricted periods during the day (Nick, 2001, p. 23). A lot of attention was paid to the children of their parents and even other adults within the community. However, the modernisation of the western culture has since changed this. The close care that was accorded to children was no longer there. Children were left to take care of themselves. It is during the process that the children managed to access adult contents from digital media which was within their reach then. Parents who could look after them have become very busy in their places of work. They spent petite time in their residential places (Bruce, 2013, p. 34). By granting children all the freedom in the absence of their parents, they have done a lot of exploration. They have accessed a lot of materials that were purely reserved for adults. The children have also discovered a lot of secrets. They have established that there is some information that they have been denied accessibility. They have worked tirelessly hard and have managed to discover secrets that have been reserved for adults only (Trevithick, 2005, p. 26).
Looking at the manner in which children reverted and started to behave the way they are doing at the moment, it would be abnormal for anyone to claim that childhood is disappearing. If the stage were to disappear then, it would have disappeared a long time ago. There are just several changes that have happened in the recent past. The changes have exposed children, and they have become prone to manipulations. As a result of the changes that have been brought about by the emergence of new technologies, developments in the Western world among others, the structure of childhood stage has completely changed. There is nothing that can be done to return the original structure. Technology is speedily advancing, and people have to move with it at the pace at which it is advancing (Valkenburg, 2004, p. 35).
The western world population has agreed that childhood has been changing of late. However, the topic has brought a lot of contradiction and confusion as well. The main area of concern has pointed for the reason that might have led to the changes in childhood. Some people claim that childhood is on the verge of disappearing. They have even gone ahead and said that childhood is as good as dead. This statement has prompted many authors to investigate if that is the gospel truth or not. One of the authors is David Buckingham. Buckingham did his research alongside other authors and researchers and finally disagreed with the notion that Childhood is on the verge of disappearing (Buckingham, 2000, pp. 22-24). He established that childhood was simply changing its form and structure. Buckingham highlighted some emerging issues that most likely contributed to the change in shape and structure of childhood. The rapid developments in the field of innovations and changing trends have been identified as the main factor that has led to the changes in structure and form of childhood. The advent of digital media such as televisions, computers and print media has exposed children to a lot of information which they never accessed before. In the past, parents and other adults regulated the information which could be accessed by the children. Information that promoted hate and immoral behaviour were kept away from the reach of children (Buckingham, 2000, pp. 31-32). Children were therefore brought up as innocent and ignorant beings. They believed that they have to do things that would please adults. They could never imagine of engaging in immoral behaviours because they never witnessed such behaviour anywhere around them. However, with the invention of televisions and computer games, children have seen people promote hate and immoral behaviours. They too have gone ahead to imitate all that they have observed over the media platforms. In addition, children have learned that they have rights that must be protected. They have therefore rebelled against adults whenever they feel that their rights are being violated even when the case is not true. As a result, many adults have been reduced to mere spectators. They can no longer fully control and discipline the children when they engage in immoral behaviour since their mandate is limite
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