Being a Kid Today

Being a Kid Today

WEE ONEs today are way ahead of their times and parents need to listen and let them live in their own tiny world.

Being a kid today Carmen Benton Lifeworks Dubai

What does just being a kid mean today?

In one word: Technical. Video games, computer games and, of course, television. Many kids today could probably teach their parents a thing or two about using their BlackBerry. Their role models could be Hananah Montanna, SpongeBob Squarepants, Ben 10 and Britney Spears. Carmen Benton, LifeWorks parenting educator, who runs weekly workshops for parents, teachers and nannies at LifeWorks, Dubai, feels that children today are technically advanced, but also rely on parents and teachers immensely so the message given to them needs to be ironed out.

You may know that your kids look up to their uncle or their helpful neighbour. But who else are they being exposed to?

“As adults we would have to question who our children really are imitating, is it their parents, their teachers, older siblings, sports heros, super heros or the many celebrities they are constantly exposed to. Whether they are good role models or bad role models, children are heavily exposed to a vast array of celebrities through the many forms of media they are bombarded with — from the fellow child singers such as Justin Bieber and Willow Smith to TV stars such as Mylie Cyrus aka Hananah Montana. Younger children even have cartoon characters who can seem all too real to them such as Dora, Ben 10 or Phineas and Ferb,” she says.

We would want our children to be self-confident, have high self-esteem, be self-disciplined, responsible and care for their fellow humans. “However, you only need to spend 30 minutes sitting beside your child on the sofa while they watch Cartoon Network to realise that the role models they look up to do not possess many of these qualities,” rues Benton.

It can be all too easy for parents to leave their children in the care of the ‘TV nanny’ for hours each day. Many parents also believe that as long as they their child is watching educational shows and not the violent ones then they will be learning all the right values needed today.

However, a research study reported in Po Bronson’s new book Nurture Shock reveals the more educational media preschool children watched the more relationally aggressive they were. Children who watched shows deemed appropriate by parents, such as Arthur and Clifford the Big Red Dog, showed up to be bossy, controlling and manipulative. This was put down to the fact that many of these shows spent half an hour establishing a conflict and only a few minutes resolving them. “Therefore, it is likely that young children do not attend to the overall message, and instead learn from the behaviours instead,” she reveals.

Millions are spent on advertising campaigns directly targeted at young children and all for good reason. ‘Pester power’ is known to sell. “Not long after the movie Toy Story 3 came out I was in the UK with my four-year-old son. When we were out shopping he managed to find a toy story character on almost anything within his immediate reach, from a tooth brush to a yoghurt in the supermarket and bedding to lego. His desire to have Toy Story on everything grew daily,” she says, adding, “Back in Dubai, I was also privy to two young girls discussing how they would get their parents to buy them a BlackBerry each. When I turned around to look at them I think they were about 10 years old. It is hard going when you are young, to feel like you are the only person in the world without the latest gadget. My son even tells me what the children in his class have in their lunch boxes and believes his life will not be the same until he has one as well.”

Marketing ensures that children follow trends in clothing, shoes, IT equipment, as well as toys, games and even food items. In Dubai, however, children and parents are setting their own trends and very soon they become the norm. The full blown birthday bashes where the whole class is invited is one such event. “The more of these parties your child goes to the more they desire this for themselves and so a trend has begun. Another trend for the UAE is the afterschool activity. If all of the children in your child’s class are attending ballet classes or football classes, then your child will feel like they too need this in order to fit in,” she feels.

In the UAE, afterschool activities are quite structured and cluttering them all in a day may prevent kids from playing outdoors. “Children need to be encouraged for fantasy play rather than being given too many toys with a direct purpose. Art and craft play allows children time to learn and develop their creative skills and is also fun and productive. Children also need time to play with other children, not only those their own age but older and younger also so that they learn to care for younger children or be cared for by older children,” she adds.

While parents today make sure that everything is rubber-cushioned, even playgrounds so that their kids don’t skin their knees, it’s more important that you don’t always nod. “They need to really learn the word ‘no’ and ‘wait,’” she emphasises.

Benton concludes, “I believe that childhood is a sacred time. What children want and need is special time each day with their parents where they receive our undivided attention and we join them in ?an activity they choose, even if it is just for 10-minutes per day. Tune into your child’s world and listen to them.”

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Carmen Benton Lifeworks Dubai


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