A TOXIC combination of 24-hour social media, sexualised childhoods, long periods in front of screens and the absence of adult role models is contributing to increasing numbers of young people suffering a “quarter-life crisis” by the time they are in their 20s, a former Children’s Minister has warned.
Tim Loughton called for Government action to address the “increasingly precarious position” of children growing up in the UK and to support the model of a two-parent family which he believes is the best environment for a child to thrive.
He proposed a national register of “recently retired but restless seniors” who could volunteer to mentor fatherless teenage boys, to bridge the gap between generations and offer them a sense of direction in their lives.
Writing in a pamphlet entitled The State Our Children Are In, published by charity 4Children, Mr Loughton warned that the relationships between parents and children are “in danger of becoming increasingly sidelined by advances in technology”.
By the time they are seven, British children born today will have cumulatively spent a year of their lives looking at one screen or another, and by the time they are in their teens, they are more likely to have a television in their bedroom than a father living at home, said Mr Loughton, who served as children’s minister from 2010-12.
Parents’ relationships with their children are increasingly mediated through technology from an even earlier age, he said.
He gave the example of prams incorporating computer screens to entertain babies and teddy bears containing cameras and microphones so that parents can monitor their children over the internet.
“Who needs the stimulation of human touch and the building blocks of attachment when you can have it all delivered remotely down a fibre-optic cable or, even more conveniently, have a wi-fi baby?” wrote the East Worthing and Shoreham MP.
“It’s no wonder that we all too often struggle to shield children from the slings and arrows of social media, when many parents are accomplices in securing their children a place on Facebook well before the advisory age of 13. Incredibly, nearly one in five children now get their first mobile phone by the time they are five.”
Parents were faced with a “minefield” in trying to protect their children from exposure to adult or violent imagery, grooming and bullying on the internet, said Mr Loughton.