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Childhood in its simplest term is defined as the period of time that a person is a child, for a something that sounds so simple childhood is an extremely complex concept. No-one’s childhood is ever the same, similar, yes! But our childhood experiences are unique. Affected by many factors such as; personal experiences, personality, restraints (money, rules, laws) , period born, place that we were born, gender etc… .
Childhood is understood to be social constructed, therefore the definition of an ‘ideal’ childhood never says the same for long even in the same society expectations of childhood is constantly evolving, circumstances change; new laws are passed, enhancements in science and technology, war all contribute to the social construction of childhood. It is thought as years have passed that the childhood has improved; more toys, more places to go, better education, entering a technological era, greater understanding of health, all are a part of the life we all now know.
However, no matter how many toys, recent gadgets, new clothes a child is given is it really any consolation to the loss of quality time with their parents? Money does not grow on trees, and in recent years percentage of both parents having to work has increased dramatically, you are far less likely to see a stay at home mum but two working parents that won’t even be home by the time their children get home from school.
It is said that children have become more independent? Partly I agree children do have to spend more time without the company and influence of their family, however, everything else is handed to them on a plate, children now no longer have to work for what they want but get given it as compensation by their parents who no longer have time for their children, does this really show childhood has improved?
To investigate how the ideology of childhood has changed over the years, I interviewed my granddad who is in his 60’s, he began to explain how him and his siblings had a structured up bringing parents were strict but reasonable, they all respected each other and his father was the dominant in the household, they all knew there place. He lived in a 2 bedroom house; mum and dad in one room and him and his two brothers in another. Everything was basic, clothes where either second hand or more often than not hand me downs from his elder brother .
Toys were not like they are now you had the choice of small figurines or marbles he’s favourite was a small teddy knitted by his mother. However, the majority of the time they entertained themselves by playing with the other children that lived on their street, he stated games are not what they are now you had to use your imagination and be social to have a good time, you could not just sit in front of a computer screen talk to your all friends. His mother was a stay at home mum, she was relied on to keep the house in order and make sure dinner was on the table as their father got in.
Every night they would sit around the table to eat and be thankful for whatever they were given, he made it quite clear there was no snacking so you’d saver every last bit. He did go to school, it was small but education was taken seriously by all the students even though it was basic. He had his first job at the age of 16 and had to use the money he earned to buy himself the things he wanted, which taught him at a young age how important the concept of money is. Overall his memories as a child were extremely happy and family orientated.
It is clear when comparing the information given in the interview, to the expectations of what childhood is meant to be like in the twenty-first century, peoples childhoods have changed significantly over the years. Although who is to say this change is for the better? Admittedly children now have a much better education and health care but is that really important when they are taken for granted by most. Even though we have progressed greatly in our understanding of science and technology, as well as being given a wider range opportunities and the freedom to express ourselves.
We have lost what was once the most important parts of society and that’s family values, no longer is quality time thought of as important, in fact no one, not even children have time for it. Or do they? is the reason our children are so corrupt and confused, is it because they are begging for the attention of their parents who don’t have the time for them. It seems to me even children now are no longer brought in to this world because couples wanting a family but babies are just another step to having this materialistic ‘perfect’ life everyone is now striving for.
I have been focusing on the stereotypical childhood of a child in a more economically developed country, I have concluded that childhood has both progressed in a positive as well as negative way. But what about in other countries? How have their children’s childhood changed? In Asia children are used as slave labourers, and for what exactly? To fulfil the wants of others in more economically developed countries. Children are taken away from their families and made to work in sweatshops to produce the materialistic possessions that apparently have improved other children’s childhood so greatly.
Children in these countries are made to grow up so quickly that it can be said they have no childhood at all, they are seen to be young adults, they have to; provide for their family, work before they are even given a proper or any education, the eldest children are made to care for their younger siblings, becoming parents before they even have children of their own. Seems childhood is slowly disintegrating our corrupt and colluded world has forgotten about its children that now even the child protection laws are no longer abided by.