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Parenting: Cameron's childhood adviser says we're all getting it wrong. Is she right?

(291 Posts)
HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Sat 02-Mar-13 10:23:20


Claire Perry, MP, David Cameron's adviser on childhood, has been telling the papers today that Britain's parents have got it all wrong.

In The Times (£), the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, Perry is quoted as saying...

* We fill every moment of our children's lives with organised activities, "damaging their lives" by leaving them unable to fend for themselves when they go to university.

* We should 'snoop' on our children's text messages and internet exchanges. Perry says that, as a society, we are all 'complicit' in allowing a culture where youngsters can make inappropriate contact with strangers at all hours of the day and night. She adds, "Most parents are too busy, don't know the words, aren't aware their children are doing it. They are living in digital oblivion."

Do you agree with either of her points?

Or not?

Please do post and tell!

BlueSkySunnyDay Sun 03-Mar-13 23:04:34

Is the "tons of activities" a middle class thing? We couldnt afford to do this anyway, some of DS friends have 1, if not 2 activities a night - it must be exhausting.

Facebooks, all DS1s notifications come in via me

internet - he KNOWS I check the history after a friend looked at porn - he got a stern grilling from me and I informed their parents so he wont be doing that again.

The most difficult thing is the xbox as live doesnt really seem to be set up to be "safe" it becomes very labour intensive if its set to "child" - they dont make friends with anyone they dont know in real life but pretty much all of their friends do. DS 1 was so concerned about one person one of DS2's friends had befriended that he got me to have a word with his parent.

Does this "advisor" have children? Im assuming the Nanny has been passed these instructions.

iclaudius Sun 03-Mar-13 23:11:28

juggling i do however think that the time in which to be 'bored' can also be the time in whih the childs imagination starts working overtime.

morethanpotatoprints Sun 03-Mar-13 23:13:34

I don't think theres anything wrong with lots of activities if they are chosen by the dc. Its not like many kids play out these days anyway.
Allowing them hobbies and interests is surely good for character building and they are meeting other dcs who share a common interest, from other schools and communities.

As for being safe on the internet, parents aren't stupid, they monitor their dc from an early age until they are positive they can be trusted or are mature enough not to need monitoring.

I have yet to meet a dc that has many activities and spends hours on technological gadgets and games. There aren't enough hours. Prior to 16 I never let anything electronic into bedrooms at night anyway. Homework was done downstairs so no problem.

I also don't think this advisor has kids, its not rocket science.

iclaudius Sun 03-Mar-13 23:20:26

morethanpotato -what age do you suggest they no longer need monitoring on the internet?

LineRunner Sun 03-Mar-13 23:24:00


When the child's imagination 'starts' working is called PLAY.

morethanpotatoprints Sun 03-Mar-13 23:26:11


My older 2 were 16, they weren't always aware I knew what they were doing though.
Still now at 21 and 18 I know what they are up to as one will tell me the others status on fb grin.
Personally, I had the no electronics in bedrooms because I believe it doesn't aid sleep foremost but also that so much can go wrong even at 16+ that I was glad I'd made the ruling when they were younger.

LineRunner Sun 03-Mar-13 23:31:41

iclaudius, are you the adviser's adviser?

morethanpotatoprints Sun 03-Mar-13 23:42:12


I totally agree with your point about play and imagination. Its the right of the child to have freedom to play, its right up there with right to education, shelter and food.
However, I don't think dc need to experience boredom for this. I think that they feel the need to play and do so not because they are bored but as a conscious deliberate activity.
Boredom, is surely the opposite and lacking imagination.
I did my dissertation on the changes to children's play from the 1970's, it wasn't brilliant research or anything, but I learnt a lot and really enjoyed it. smile

LineRunner Sun 03-Mar-13 23:48:26


Play is about becoming human, is it not? And then growing into roles; thus hugely important to the type of society we want our children to be socialised into making.

LineRunner Sun 03-Mar-13 23:49:10

p.s. morethan I wish I had done a dissertation like yours! smile

morethanpotatoprints Mon 04-Mar-13 00:07:36

smile LineRunner.

My degree was Leisure and Tourism and Play was just one unit. I loved the philosophy so much, I couldn't resist. Took ages to find an angle though.

I think dc still play as imo its inerrant, but the boundaries have changed and some of the freedom has gone now. Our kids are cocooned but mainly due to parental fears rather than technology or organised activities.

Yes play is about becoming human, experiencing life through play is also what adults subcontiously aspire too as well. We are never too old to play. Vertigo is the thrill that a person seeks and gets from being out of control and is apparent through fairground rollercoasters through to running round a mop making yourself dizzy. Everyone should have the freedom to play, but especially kids.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 04-Mar-13 00:20:43

Sorry forgot to add the most important thing about play. Yes Linerunner
Play, gives us our roles through recreating our play from childhood. It is recreational, uses up spare time in order to recall and recreate in future life.

Hark at me!

LineRunner Mon 04-Mar-13 00:22:07

morethan, It would be interesting if Claire Perry could give us a view on when she thinks it's ok to let children play out (what age, what circumstances) without some kind of adult monitoring.

RabidCarrot Mon 04-Mar-13 08:07:32

i agree with a lot of what she has said.
I have a 12 and 17 year old (boys) and I know where they are, who they are with and what they are doing, we have always enrolled them in clubs and I have full access to their internet and phones, DS2 has a face book account to keep in touch with friends from primary school but does not know the password and so he can only log on when I do it for him and both boys know everything they do I see,

Loving all of this talk about the value and crucial role of play in children's (and our) lives.

Yes, let's have Claire on and tell her where we see the priorities for improving children's experience of childhood !

Ha ! Just noticed Claire said (talking about IT within her comments on parenting) "Most parents are too busy, don't know the words ..."

Well, here's a handy new word for you Mrs Perry, to help you in your new role (1 month in I gather) as the prime-minister's adviser on childhood .... drum roll please ^ PLAY ...... thank-you thanks

BrendaB85 Mon 04-Mar-13 09:51:24

So wrong, it's really strange how they can be so far from the truth.


curryeater Mon 04-Mar-13 10:25:32

morethanpotatoprints, your dissertation sounds interesting, can you provide a link? (very cheeky, fully prepared to accept the answer "no")

rodandtheemu Mon 04-Mar-13 10:36:18

I tend to agree.. (waiting for the flaming!) I work with children and a lot are micro managed with after school clubs every day. I think some times there is too much going on in there little lives. Also i DO agree that very young children have acsess to the internet and it IS a dangerous place IF not controlled.
I see young children with expensive media 'toy' as that what they are to them and they are the gateway to a lot of trouble IF unsupervised.

My neice (8) shown told me about a man that was trying to add her on bbm, asking how old she was ect. (could have been perfectly innocent) but it made me uneasy, so i spkoke to her mum about it.

My daughter when she was 10 ( a good few years ago) was added by a 'girl' on facebook that was actually using her friends pictures as her 'own' god knows who it was? cue me send them a message about reporting to the police.Fast forward 5 years,I seen my daughter on pic that some one had posted of her on her facebook wall, I had sneaked on it when she wasnt looking (yes i did go there!) She was in a pub with several of her friends..'enjoying a birthday drink' it seems! Cue her getting rollocked and grounded... so yes some snooping/control must go on on as giving young children/teenagers unsupervised trust is rubbish.

PureQuintessence Mon 04-Mar-13 10:45:08

Yes. I think she is right.

Compared to Norway, British children are "babied". A Lot.

But what is the alternative? In Norway you have open spaces, children playing out every where, learning to be independent, picking blueberries, making dens in the woods. Have mostly big gardens with trampolines and some such. Friends running in and out.

Ferrying children around to activities, having every day of the week taken by Violin, Stage Coach, Kumon, Tutoring, Dance, etc, I think it is a British Urban (middle class?) phenomenon.

Getting a "playdate" arranged is neigh impossible, everyone is so busy.

In Norway children mostly do ONE activity, like Football, gymnastics, riding, skiing, music, and the rest of the time is spent having leisure time with friends. Visiting in groups, going to the local football or basket ball pitch, or meet up with a group to go skiing, even at primary age.

The flip side of this independence is minimal parental involvement and guidance, bullying, teasing, getting into scrapes, whereas the parents say "well, I was not there, the kids will have to sort it out between themselves". They become incredibly street smart and "independent", but at a cost to both self confidence and ability to concentrate in school, as the "unrest" will bleed into the school environment as well. Kids who are used to do what they want, rarely react well to discipline from teachers.

While I agree with some of the point she is making, which I suspect she has seen from her very narrow group of peers, I dont think it is so harmful as she make it out.

kimorama Mon 04-Mar-13 11:22:04

No such thing as getting parenting all right or all wrong. There are diffent ways of parenting within different classes; and some variations on the norm.

kimorama Mon 04-Mar-13 11:26:02

Claire Perry is employed by Cameron to get him favourable headlines.

BlueberryHill Mon 04-Mar-13 11:29:45

I agree with all the comments on play, plus the comment made by a pp on childcare ratios, to have unstructured activites, letting children play and learn as they please takes a lot of people to allow this.

I also do not recognise the idea of children with never ending activities and wonder if it is a small section of society that Claire sees or reads about in the papers, (thinks of the various weekend papers sections). DS (6yo) does two outside activities, swimming and karate. I see both of them as getting rid of some energy, meeting friends, developing physically and giving him skills to be independent as he grows up. Arranging playdates is never a problem and in the near future I see him being able to walk to friends houses like I used to do. We live in a village and his friends are 5 / 10 mins walk away which makes a difference.

HilaryClinton Mon 04-Mar-13 11:34:43

The report I read said she didn't exempt herself from the criticism.
My perception is that:
a) Small numbers of people do overfill their childrens' lives
b) large numbers of people do live in 'digital oblivion'

iclaudius Mon 04-Mar-13 11:39:22

Line runner 'when the inagination starts working is called play' YES but you believe the same is true for electronic games??

Certainly between the hours of four and seven allowing for travel etc I seriously wonder how other parents fit stuff in ...

I am not a great fan of extra curricular stuff but my 10 year old does an hour on a Thursday and half an hour on a Monday - I know that on these days cooking and clearing up dinner tiny bit of home work bath story bed - there is very little time for much else
On weekends I gave noticed an increasing trend for activities - that coupled with the ubiquitous party ten miles away can easily eat up a day

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