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Live webchat with Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, Wed 17 March, 1-2pm

(141 Posts)
GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 11-Mar-10 11:31:52

We're very pleased to welcome Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood and 21st Century Boys, for a webchat on Wed 17 March at 1pm. She's a timely guest given the MN campaign, Let Girls be Girls.

Sue is a writer and speaker on child development and education. After 15 years as a respected authority on literacy teaching, she published Toxic Childhood: How the Modern World is Damaging Our Children and What We Can Do About It. It helped to spark a national debate about the nature of contemporary childhood.

Since then she has published a handbook for parents on Detoxing Childhood, and 21st Century Boys: How Modern Life Can Drive Them off the Rails and How to Get Them Back on Track.

Sue regularly comments on childhood issues in the national media and London's Evening Standard regularly lists her among London's most influential figures in education (which gives her huge pleasure as she lives in Edinburgh).

The Scotsman has described her as one of the country's "new radical thinkers".

Hope you can join the discussion.

BigBadMummy Thu 11-Mar-10 13:46:14


I was lent Sue's book by a teacher friend of mine and it has changed the way I parent.

Sue makes the point that children now are healthier, wealthier and better educated yet children now are more depressed than in any previous generations (I am paraphrasing but that is Sue's gist).

Incredible insight.

I think everybody should read her books.

Clarissimo Thu 11-Mar-10 13:58:23

I am going to order that BBD, the one for boys looks good.

A wquestion: Sue, I ahve a child who has AS but also has eationg disorders that doi seem lilnked incredibly to self image- they escalated when another child called him (under 4st at ten) fatty.

I am goin g to but the book but for a child seemingly obsessed with looking good (wants to be Gok), etc do you have any advice?

We are not a family overly caught up in that cycle but he attends school in a very affluent area where designer clothes are very common (we are not that, it is a fluke we are here!) and he wants to be one of the in crowd.

Shitemum Thu 11-Mar-10 17:25:07

I read Toxic Childhood a couple of years ago - excellent book.
I tried to start a discussion on it on here but there wasn't much response.
I think it should be required reading for every parent.
Won't be able to follow this live unfortunately but will be very interested to catch up with the thread...

Snoringcat Thu 11-Mar-10 20:56:28

I have just read the 21st C boys, and thought it was excellent, and have now started to read Toxic Childhood.

I did wonder why there is no mention of Home Education in the books, as I would have thought that HE would fit very naturally into the books (especially in the Early years)

I think anyone with boys should read 21st C.

Many thanks for a great book

LauraIngallsWilder Thu 11-Mar-10 23:19:54

Hi Sue
I have a copy of toxic childhood which I really like as I agree with so much of it - I like the fact that what you say is backed up with reasearch evidence.

I liked it so much I bought copies for our health visitor and teachers at my kids school

My kids are now Home Educated so I agree with snoring cat - how about a mention for HE in a future book!

MathsMadMummy Fri 12-Mar-10 10:00:09

I am planning on reading this book! It looks like the perfect reading material for my husband and I who are often feeling that society is changing too quickly and it's damaging to our children. We are also thinking of home schooling for this reason among others.

However, I do wonder sometimes if the media scaremongering is making us more scared than we need to be. But do you think it actually might be making the problem worse, or maybe it's a good thing because it makes parents aware of potential pitfalls?


LeninGrad Fri 12-Mar-10 10:58:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Rhubarb Fri 12-Mar-10 12:36:46

Do you think it's fair to say that with all of these electronic devices such as Wii, Nintendo DS, Playstations, televisions in rooms, that children are becoming more and more distant from family life and that it's easier for parents to ignore children?

tougholdbird Fri 12-Mar-10 22:37:47

Can't make webchat but really want to know if Sue has seen any sign that any political party is prepared to put together real policies (not just soundbites) to address the issues she raises in her book.

ToccataAndFudge Fri 12-Mar-10 23:44:08

ooo -give me a day or two - I'll have some good questions - admittedly mostly taken from "Children in Society, Contemporary Theory, Policy and Practice" but relevant to Toxic Childhood

sunshinenanny Fri 12-Mar-10 23:50:22

I read Toxic Childhood when it came out and agree with so much of what Sue says but feel that we sometimes forget that we are in charge of our children's lives and do not have to allow our children to be cut off from real experience by the electronic world. I Know children who are home educated and they seem very well rounded and happy.

Tee2072 Sat 13-Mar-10 08:42:32

Sue, I haven't read your book but am a huge proponent of Free Range Kids.

It sounds to me like the two 'philosophies' for lack of a better word, would fit very well together.

I personally think our kids are spending too much time with their computers because their parents aren't letting them go outside without supervision.

Do you think the two philosophies could be put together to make a good, solid parenting whole?

Fayrazzled Sat 13-Mar-10 09:31:21

Sue, I'd like to ask how you think we can get the best schooling for our boys when we have no option than the state sector. There are no Montessori or Steiner schools (and I don't agree with some aspects of Steiner education anyway) in my area.

My son started school at 4.0 and is currently in the reception class. I'm happy he goes to school quite contentedly each day but I am worried it is damaging his self-esteem as he's being required to do some activities (e.g. writing) he's just not ready to do. He knows himself he is not as good as some of the others and refers to his own efforts as "rubbish". It breaks my heart to hear this and I'm worried his self-esteem will be irreparably damaged at such a tender age. What can I do at home to help?

But I have no alternative to the state primary he attends (which is actually OFSTED "outstanding") but which causes me some concerns about just how quickly the children are pushed to start academic learning. They do a lot of playing but they're definitely being taught in a more academic way too. I'm also concerned about my little boy becoming "lost" in his class of 31.

ahundredtimes Sat 13-Mar-10 10:18:07

Mine is a general point about how each generation convinces itself that the generation below are no good.

They've lost respect, they cycle on bicycles, they wear their hair in quiffs, they like rock and roll, they've got no respect, they drink too much, they've got no manners, they need a good war, the girls are too lippy, kids these days.

And now - they watch computers all day, they don't know how to talk, they're depressed, they're socially illiterate, confined, under dreadful pressure, kids these days eh?

And toxic is such a powerful and horrible word. And yes, I'm sure there is a body of evidence, endless evidence obsessively gathered I imagine, which is going to show why our children are all going to hell in a handcart - but weirdly, empirically, I don't SEE it.

However, despite the somewhat hysterical banner of poisonous modern life, or toxicity - which I don't agree with - I do think her books speak a lot of, well, common sense really.

ItNeverRainsBut Sat 13-Mar-10 10:28:02

Sue, are you planning on writing a book about 21C girls, and if not, why not?

hanaflower Sat 13-Mar-10 11:53:06

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ahundredtimes Sat 13-Mar-10 12:22:32

Well, I guess it rather depends on when they started measuring happiness hana! And how they measure it - it is quite a difficult thing to gauge.

And I guess we think we're neurotic, distressed, crippled first worlders with depressed, dysfunctional kids - when in fact we're fantastically lucky, and that's always well worth remembering. smile

Isaidheyhoney Sat 13-Mar-10 23:07:19

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think research has shown that Britain is the worst place to bring up kids in the developed world. Psychologist Oliver James is always saying we should do what they do in Sweden in order to make things better. What ideas does Sue think we should take from other countries? Or which country would she recommend we take our kids off to?

sarah293 Sun 14-Mar-10 09:33:27

Message withdrawn

ahundredtimes Sun 14-Mar-10 10:14:36

(yes that's true, and back in the 70s tv was fun, and further back it was considered morally corrupting if girls read too much etc etc etc ad infinitum)

so, I think my question is - given that computers, the internet etc are here to stay, and do bring something to our lives, what is the best way to strike the balance?

On a school day what would you recommend as being a suitable amount of 'screen time' - or over a week? (This being a tetchy subject in our house grin)

sarah293 Sun 14-Mar-10 11:03:46

Message withdrawn

southeastastra Sun 14-Mar-10 11:12:47

there is change though, i work within playwork where a 'free range childhood' is actively encouraged by people working with children during holiday/afterschool and even lunch times now.

i definitely do agree with the media scaremongering and have often wondered by our industry isn't given hardly any coverage in the media.

seem you need to have the words 'toxic' or similar to grab people's attention.

thing is, professionals are and have been working towards 'free play' for a few years.

shame it isn't recognised unless someone writes a books with a 'scary' title.

Tim Gill also has written a fab book about a risk averse society also well worth a look.

So wondering what sue thinks of the playwork industry? does she support it's degree status?

ahundredtimes Sun 14-Mar-10 12:27:13

(yes, that's a good point. Also, I'm interested in how the kids who are free range but are called 'neglected' because they get up to trouble! They are feral asbo chickens, rather than domestic organic free range types I suppose.)

sarah293 Sun 14-Mar-10 12:30:13

Message withdrawn

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