We recently surveyed parents on their thoughts about childhood in Ireland, here are some of the headline results and comments. Please note that the surveys were not conducted for any statistical robustness but as a barometer of parents' views on the topics.
- 49% feel that childhood nowadays compares favourably with their own
- 30% feel less that childhood nowadays is less positive
Q. If you think childhood today is more positive, can you explain why you feel that way?
(selection of responses)
"People are more aware of childrens needs and rights today! I was a child in the fifties,and,though we were loved and cared for, no one ever talked about it.I had a lovely childhood, eventhough it was so different from today.Life was very simple!"
"They have a lot more opportunities to do things and broader horizons and their opinion counts for more"
"children are thought of, more as individuals, with their own thoughts and emotions, than we were growing up. They are encouraged to be who they want to be, within reason of course"
"Because it has been recognize the importance of what the child need to be happy like playing, nutrition and identifying problems and how to tackle them in relation to, separation, lone parents, bullying, etc there are lots of support out there for them because they are very vulnerable and so innocent…… that they deserve the best."
Q. If you think childhood today is less positive, can you explain why you feel that way?
"There are more restrictions due to dangers of paedophiles, abductors etc. In our day we played out in the streets with our friends with no mobile phones. Kids today rely on technology for fun and are bored very easily. We used our imagination. We read books and wrote letters so had better literacy. We had to do chores and only had treats sometimes so took less for granted. The kids now however have more opportunities to travel and learn so much from the Internet and tv."
"Parents spend more money on their kids but spend less time with them. Kids are spoilt – too many toys and dont appreciate cost of things"
"I think people expect a lot more of Children nowadays. There is more pressure on them to mature quicker and they dont have as much freedom as we had as kids."
"I feel kids don't have the same freedom to play as we did. Everything has to be organised. even if you live on a safe road for kids to play on you rarely see them out playing, presumably because they are engaged in organised activities."
Clothing for Children
- 67% of parents think that children's clothing being sold is not age appropriate
Q. Who do you think are today’s children’s role models? And do you think they dress appropriately? Act appropriately?
"at the moment me, my family and there teachers are their role models so the answer is yes. my 2 dont watch xfactor etc.."
"I noticed my niece is into Hannah Montana – Can't stand her – bad attitude and the language/ way of talking for the age group it is aimed at is terrible. Clothes are a little skimpy for the age group too."
"probably musicians, but I try to show BOTH my kids (girls & boy) athletes, artists, scientists, and every-day role-models like parents and teachers and even the bin-man – Hooray for the bin-man (and Bin-ladies too!) what a terrible place we'd live in if nobody emptied the bins!"
"Pop stars for pre teens and teens. No to both dress and act."
Food & Nutrition
- 30% of parents don't think they have enough information to make good food choices
- 59% of parents feel that food & drink manufacturers don't provide enough information to make good food choices for their children
- 93% of parents think food & drink manufacturers market and advertise their products to children
- 66% of parents are not happy with the children's meals available to them when they eat out
Q. Are you happy with the children’s meals available to you when you dine out?
"no, its always nuggets and sausages and chips, thankfully mine love their veg and meat , so i get them half portions."
"no kids meals out are awful its usually sausage, nuggets or chips not things im in a habit of giving my children"
"Where I eat out children can get half an adult meal so yes.."
"Very rarely, will usually ask for a plate and share mine."
Commercialisation of Children
- 64% of parents feel their child puts them under pressure to buy something they have seen on tv or in ads
- 82% of parents think there should not be ads between children's tv programmes
- 15% of parents have seen inappropriate advertising near schools, creches or places that children frequent
- 91% of parents think music videos should have age ratings
Q: Do you have any thoughts on commercialisation of children nowadays vs when you were a child?
"Children are bombarded with advertising. When I was a child (born 1972) there was not as much children's television, and there were not as many toys. These days our children are exposed to an incredible amount of advertising, all cleverly designed to appeal to them by adults. I know that my children have been very disappointed by products which they have wanted from seeing an advert, but on actually having the toy in their hand, it is not what they expected at all. They do not have enough experience of the world to be able understand. And nor should they, leave them alone and let them be children. Advertising to children should be banned."
"I don't think the difference is as big as some make it out to be! To me the difference is the amount of choice available and the attitude of arenas keeping up with the joness or catering to every whim of a child! My kids know the cost of things and have a realistic expectation of what they can and can't ask for! They are learning that choices have to be made just like I was taught. Parents need to take some responsibility and stop blaming everything on society or advertising or whatever. At the end of the day WE are society!!!"
"I am only 32 but things have changed so much since I was a child. My main problem would be with the music videos. There is no age ratings on any of them and children love to watch their idols on the music channels but they are not always appropriate for their age. When they are watching the people that they admire bare almost all to the world they begin to think that this is ok to do which obviously isn't the case."
"Children know too much too early nowadays. With television, the Internet, DS/Nintendo Games, mobile phones etc they access so much information that it's impossible for parents or guardian's to have control over what they see and learn. For God sake, let the kids be kids and don't allow technology and advertising turn them into little adults!!"
- 100% of parents thought it important that their child played every day
- 86% of parents think their child has enough time to play
- On average children plays indoors between 2 and 4 hours per day
- On average they play outdoors between 2 and 4 hours per day weather permitting.
- Most parents spend between 2 and 4 hours each week playing with their child
Q: Do have any thoughts on children and playing nowadays compared to when you were a child?
"There is less room for using their own imaginations, less "free play". So much is dictated by computer games and TV programmes, much more so than when we were kids."
"Kids need more encouragement to play the simple games we played, like skipping,chasing"
"I have to say my two are great for playing outside most days and they do what I did….play ball, ride bikesor scooters and I've taught them sone of the games I played like skipping or hopscotch they've been shown since very young age to play outside and that computers are for rainy days or car journeys etc even then I try to encourage board games and cards as a change"
"Its not safe to let play kids play outside on there own anymore so more time must be spent indoors"
- 50% of parents are concerned about their child's safety with regards to internet and mobile, with a further 20% somewhat concerned
- 90% of parents monitor their child's internet and mobile use
- 56% of children use the internet for up to 2 hours a week
Q: Do you have any worries about your child’s use of the internet and if so, what are they?
"Facebook..all his friends are on it & it seems a way of communication once they come home from school"
"When looking up for his favourite characters and singers on youtube, I am always wary of the video suggestions in the search results, on the right bar and of the horrible comments people leave on the videos."
"no not really as shes only allowed on it when were with her and she only goes on moshimonsters.com which is very child friendly i've explained to her not to add people she doesn't know even you can't send private messages anywhen i can look through everything she does"
Fitness & Health
- 52% of parents think their child gets as much physical exercise as they did when they were a child
- 22% think less
- 26% think more
- 78% of parents think their child walks less than they did as a child
- 56% of children participate in 1 or 2 sports
- 44% participate in more than 2 sports
- 19% of children play sport every day, 69% play 2-4 times a week
Q: Do have any thoughts on children and fitness nowadays compared to when you were a child?
"Children don't have the freedom to run around outside as we did, society is different now. We used to run outside till we were called in at night, climbing trees, exploring different places, jumping off rocks, playing hide and seek in the open. There is no way you could let your children run free these days as there are too many dangers, traffic, strangers and a lot more hazards out there. The tendency these days is to let them watch tv and play video games which means they are inactive for a lot of the day."
"Compared to when I was a child there is so much choice for kids today. When I was young living in the midlands you had a choice of irish dancing and football that was it. Now we have fantastic leisure centres, ballet schools, drama and dance schools, indoor play areas and better playgrounds.
"We did play outside alot more because of less tv , no video games etc.. But saying that if the parents today are responsible and sensible about their kids diet, outdoor play etc.. your child is on the right path. Mum and dad should leed by example: Family walks, monitor TV and video games, home cooked healthy meals. "
"I think physical activity is essential for their physical social and emotional well being. It doesn't have to be formalised in a club if they're not into that but outside in the fresh air running about every chance possible….. We didn't have any choice coz computers etc weren't available and our parents hunted us out at every chance!!"
- 79% of parents feel they have a good understanding of what self-esteem means
- 89% of parents worry about their child's self-esteem
- 40% of parents feel they don't know how to develop positive self-esteem in their childhood
- 27% don't know the signs of self-esteem or how to spot them
- 89% have clear guidelines about rules at home
Q: In what ways do you try to spend quality time each day with your child ?
"We talk on the walk to and from school each day (20 minutes each way) and after school, I'll sit with him to help him do his homework, and we'll be chatting here and there throughout the afternoon. If time allows and baby is napping, we can play a board game. Last weekend, we baked and built gingerbread houses together. We'll have a movie night on the weekend too, where the whole family gets in some treats and we watch it together. My husband teaches him guitar lessons as well, so there's always an opportunity to connect and talk."
"We read and play games/puzzles together during the week. We go out together at weekends, to the park with the dogs, and watch films in the evenings. We sometimes bake together."
"We do homework together first, then try to do some activity with them even if it's just getting them to help prep dinner. We all eat together every day and catch up on news. We always have stories before bed too which can be a chat if needed instead!"
"Always try to sit down with each child for a while and ask them about their day. Go shopping with each individually too…more time to get close to your child and gives them one to one time with you."
What are your thoughts on childhood in Ireland today? Share them with us in the comments below.