How Well-Off Are The Children Of Today?
In some respects, there’s never been a better time to be a kid. Today’s child has more material possessions, cutting-edge gadgets, and all the information and entertainment they could possibly want at their fingertips. However, some of the aspects of childhood so beloved by older generations have been lost. Although today’s children lack nothing in terms of material belongings, their psychological needs are neglected. We need to take a serious look at what our kids really need and be proactive in bringing about change.
They Don’t Spend Enough Time Outdoors.
Remember being told to go and play outside when you were young? This generation of children, it seems, rarely venture beyond their front doors. A UK government survey has revealed that 75% of children spend less time outside than prison inmates, and 20% spend no time at all playing outside. This means that the opportunity to exercise, socialise with others, and use their imaginations has been lost. Children spend an increasing amount of time inside playing video games and browsing the internet. Although technology has many benefits- it can be an asset when helping with homework, for instance- it is no substitute for the healthy stimulation afforded by outside activities.
They Are Taught To Value Achievement Over Altruism.
It isn’t just children’s physical health and opportunities to connect with nature that suffer in our digital, materialistic age. Worrying research indicates that the average child is now likely to believe achievements are more important than the ability or drive to help other people. This may be because there is ever-increasing pressure on children to perform well on numerous tests and exams than on preserving morals. According to the Harvard study linked above, four-fifths of children rank personal achievement and happiness as being more important than caring for other people. These findings should cause concern for everyone worried about the future of our society. If the next generation grows up selfish and less willing to be kind than those who have gone before, what ramifications might this have for broader social issues such as inequality? The authors of this research point out that children report a gap between what their parents say (e.g. “It’s important to be caring/nice”) and what they actually do (e.g. show more excitement over good grades than their child’s reputation or willingness to show compassion).
Parents Discuss Money, but Lack Important Knowledge.
If we want children to develop wholesome values that will encourage them to grow up as responsible citizens, we need this to be reflected in the topics we cover in our conversations with them. This includes financial literacy. Research by Everfi shows that whilst parents are generally willing to talk about money matters with their children, the majority (57%) do not feel as though they have enough knowledge to cover certain key issues such as growing one’s wealth and managing credit scores. This leaves their children vulnerable to financial difficulties such as debt and poor credit ratings.
What Should We Do?
It is essential that we model the positive behaviours and beliefs we want to see in our children. This means being willing to explore the great outdoors, to prioritise compassion over achievement, and to take the time to develop our own financial knowledge. Children do not respond well to mixed messages. They are much more likely to respect those who make the effort to live out the values they claim to cherish. Children, especially older children and adolescents, are excellent at uncovering hypocrisy. Our actions and values need to be in close alignment if we are to shape our children into responsible citizens.
Featured photo credit: THANASIS ZOVOILIS via GETTY IMAGES