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Junk food, TV and the internet 'are poisoning childhood'


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Junk food, TV and the internet 'are poisoning childhood'


kidgameST120906_228x165.jpgVideo games blamed for turning children into 'mini-adults'




Children are being deprived of the right to grow up at their own pace by a combination of advertising, junk food, pressures at school and TV and video games, experts have warned.

Youngsters are being turned into nothing more than "mini-adults" and are increasingly susceptible to depression and developmental problems as a result, they claim.

The group of renowned psychologists, academics, teachers' leaders and authors say that action is needed now in order to prevent the death of childhood.

The 110-strong lobby group wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph asking that the Government intervene before children suffer irretrievable psychological and physical damage.

They say politicians have failed to appreciate how damaging the modern world has become to children's development.

They wrote: "We are deeply concerned at the escalating incidence of childhood depression and children's behavioural and developmental conditions.

"Since children's brains are still developing, they cannot adjust… to the effects of ever-more rapid technological and cultural change."

The group is made up of, among others, the authors Philip Pullman and Jacqueline Wilson, Baroness Greenfield, the director of the Royal Institution, and leading child-care expert Penelope Leach.

They claim the needs of children have remained unchanged while the world around them has speeded up and increased its academic and social expectations.

Their letter continued: "They still need what developing human beings have always needed, including real food (as opposed to processed "junk"), real play (as opposed to sedentary screen-based entertainment), first-hand experience of the world they live in and regular interaction with the real-life significant adults in their lives."

The letter blamed marketing forces for making children "act and dress like mini-adults" while television and video games exposed them to material that would have been considered unsuitable on years earlier.

The letter was passed round the lobby group by Sue Palmer, a former head teacher and author of Toxic Childhood, and Dr Richard House, senior lecturer at the Research Centre for Therapeutic Education at Roehampton University.

Mrs Palmer said that "children's development is being drastically affected by the world they are brought up in".

"I think it is shocking. We must make a public statement - a child's mental and physical growth cannot be accelerated," she added. "It changes in biological time, not electrical speed. Childhood is not a race."

Her comments are supported by research from Professor Michael Shayer at King's College, London.

His studies found that cognitive skills in 11-year-olds were two to three years behind the average levels of 15 years ago.

The group's letter went on: "In a fast-moving, hyper-competitive culture, today's children are expected to cope with an ever-earlier start to formal schoolwork and an overly academic test-driven primary curriculum."

Michael Morpurgo, former children's laureate, added that a "target-driven education system… has put children into an academic straitjacket from an early age which restricts creativity and the enrichment of childhood".

He described video games and Internet sites as "toxic" influences on juvenile minds.

Mrs Wilson commented: "I don't think children use their imaginations any more. We are not valuing childhood."

Other signatories on the letter include three former education secretaries, Baroness Williams, Baroness Shephard and Baroness Morris.

Baroness Greenfield has already set up an all-party group in the Lords to look at the effects of technology on children.

Around one per cent of children aged five to 11 and three per cent of adolescents aged 11 to 18 are thought to suffer from depression in any one year - with 80,000 of those aged five to 16 suffering from serious depression.

Meanwhile the number of obese children has doubled in the last decade.

One in four aged 11-15 are obese, with almost half of girls officially classified as obese or overweight.

The Food Standards Agency is currently demanding a ban on television advertising of junk food before the 9pm watershed.

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Haha the kid in the pic is playing GTA...I love that game! My sister plays all those games and shes fine! She was watching Terminator when she was 3 and playing Killer Instinct on the super nintendo and she wouldn't hurt a fly!!!


These survey things are silly. I'm sure the majority of kids who play them are still kids. If a kid has problems then they shouldn't play it, dont wreck it for the others!

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