Are Kids Growing Up Too Fast?

No one’s ordering pizzas to be delivered to the classroom or getting knocked up after school. However, things are moving pretty fast (and if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it) – see what I did there? Two movies?!

On a more serious note, I can’t get over how fast kids are growing up these days. At the earliest years, we’re dealing with a school system where Kindergarten is the new first grade, robbing our kids of their time to just be kids. Then we’re facing the tweening of childhood where:

“The 12- to 14-year-olds of yesterday are the 10- to 12-'s of today,” says Bruce Friend, a vice president of the kids' cable channel Nickelodeon. The Nickelodeon-Yankelovicht Youth Monitor found that by the time they are 12, children describe themselves as "flirtatious, sexy, trendy, athletic, cool."

The article in the Manhattan Institute goes on to reveal that sex, drug abuse, and crime rates are all rising in the tween demographic and much of it has to do with “absentee parents and a sexualized and glitzy media-driven marketplace.”

Maybe I’m still the same prude Ted Kirkland called me in the 10th grade because I won’t let my 4th grader watch primetime TV sitcoms like I did at her age. There was nothing salacious about Growing Pains or Facts of Life. Sitcoms were different back then. There was a moral to the story at the end of each episode. Nowadays, sitcoms have a moral at the end of each episode, but not before you’ve been exposed to cleavage shots of young 20-somethings in tight tops and unattainable bodies.

Aside from sitcoms moving faster than they did in my day (said while knitting and rocking in my wood rocking chair), there’s the iEverything world with all its apps that allow you to make as many annoying fish faces as humanly possible while producing your own music videos. I will allow my daughter and a friend to use iMovie to make a cute vignette for 30 minutes during a play date, but then they need to play with… toys! Remember those? Remember how much fun we had with toys and games and things that didn’t have a battery... like your imagination?!

When I was in elementary school, Emily Himmel and I would play with Barbies in my basement for hours. And Penny Ross and I would play ping-pong forever, bouncing the ball off the walls while the radio played in the background. We laughed and laughed. And still, in my 40s, I can remember it like it was yesterday. What’s my daughter going to reminisce about? That time she and Sasha stared at the computer screen for hours… and, yeah.

And don’t get me started on academics. There’s an overall feeling that kids need to learn more, earlier and quicker than ever before. The homework load is real. The stress and anxiety is overwhelming. The pressure to perform keeps getting more intense. Then there’s the afterschool programs to give a kid the extra edge: violin lessons at age four, language immersion has to happen when they’re youngest, karate, baseball, parkour... You name it!

I worry my daughter isn’t making the kind of memories that we did. Maybe my mom worried about that, too? I don’t know. I do know that my daughter wants to be a kid and she wants to hang out with other kids who still want to play with toys. I worry that my prudish 1985 ways are preventing her from hanging out with girls she really likes. But then, I feel like things are moving faster than she would like as well. So maybe she’s okay on the bench for now?

I have to ask: Why are we pushing for our kids to grow up so fast? Where’s the fire? Why are they getting phones in elementary school, and academic tutors in Kindergarten? Why is everything, from their learning to their play, so intensely focused on doing everything at an earlier age?

Things are moving pretty fast, and if we don’t look up from our electronics and over-scheduled calendars once in a while, we could miss it.

Am I alone in my thinking? Please weigh in.

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