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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!

Thebrightsideoflife Fri 08-Mar-13 13:32:33

She's entitled to her opinion, as long as she doesn't try developing some policy around these two areas (surely impossible?).
I used her snooping comment as a wake up call to have a chat with my DD about who she BBMs and asked her if she would show me her phone now and again. She wasn't happy about showing me but she said I could look when I wanted (so I did - not for the squeamish) and we discussed the people she has never met that she happily converses with on BBM. She seems very alive to the fact that they might not be who they say they are but I am also more alive to the fact that she has a whole social network that I need to keep one ear to the ground for.
My kids are not involved in endless activities, and sometimes I wish they did more but I do lament the fact that some of their friends are frequently unavailable after school because they are too busy doing various clubs. It's frustrating and someone is losing out and until I read that comment in the paper, I had assumed that it was just my child, but she has made me think that maybe it's not just her.
So it's not all bad! smile

exoticfruits Wed 06-Mar-13 19:13:16

It would have caused far more uproar iclaudius-she puts a lot of the evils down to nurseries-far more controversial than anything Claire Perry says.

iclaudius Wed 06-Mar-13 18:10:19

( the times one I mean)

iclaudius Wed 06-Mar-13 18:10:00

Exotic fruits - will look out for that article later

iclaudius Wed 06-Mar-13 18:08:46

Domestic you have NOT gone wrong its society today ...

iclaudius Wed 06-Mar-13 18:08:07

Domesticgodless I find your candid honesty so refreshing. I was once you and had more children and took screens away.... Not everyone's choice but my older boys sounded much like yours albeit before YouTube etc...
I find my you get boys delight in sticks - blocks and old fashioned stuff so much easier but I am open to much criticism ...

morethanpotatoprints Wed 06-Mar-13 18:01:24


You have not gone wrong at all, in fact considering your family have gone through so much if the only thing that you find a problem is the use of screen time, you have done everything right.
It is ok for people like me with supportive dh, sahm with lots of time to organise things and of course hindsight, (as I'm an older mum) to say I managed without these things. I'm pretty sure had I been in your position the results regarding the use of technological gadgets would have been the same.
Also, it was easier to resist as my older 2 are 21 and 18 and there wasn't as much available when they were little.
My ds2 was terrible though and would sit on x box until his thumbs went numb. I stopped replacing items when they broke, but he would use ds1s, then they broke and it was warfare.
So in the end everything was outdated, broken, lost etc, so I didn't replace. Father Christmas brought lots of board games and after the initial moans we played and it sort of brought us more together, we ended up chatting about all sorts of things.
I really hope my post didn't come across as smug, or judgmental in anyway.
I now H.ed my dd (9) and many people have made me aware of the educational aspects of gaming, of which I had no idea.
just a thought is your ds1 old enough for minecraft, I don't know anything about it but heard its really good.
I hope you find something that you can do to bring you all together, something to share. I'm sure there are others who have experienced what you are going through and hope they can be more help with suggestions.

domesticgodless Wed 06-Mar-13 15:55:45

Hi morethan
Yes I really don't know where i've gone wrong w my boys. The eldest in particular has had a real leaning for screens, practically since he was born! He was a crying baby and sometimes for 10 mins relief I used to put him in front of the telly and it would all stop! The same was not true of ds2 or my niece. (Girls, anecdotally, just seem less screen obsessed in general....)

Unfortunately I'm also in a divorce situation where ex husband 'kept' all the friends and the old house and I had to move away through lack of funds etc so the boys are lonely when they are here. Since they got too old for soft play I've been at a loss as to how to stimulate them (and simultaneously annoyed that they cannot stimulate themselves at all!) so the situation is not great. I'm seriously thinking of giving up more time with them and letting them stay at their dad's more as they seem so bored here. It's a bit sad. (sorry derailed thread)

morethanpotatoprints Tue 05-Mar-13 22:12:57

I steered away from a lot of technology for all 3 dc. The older 2 had consoles though, but without internet access.
My dd has just got her first a dsi for her 9th birthday, I am really pleased that she monitors the use herself.
She does lots of activities though and enjoys playing in the park/garden with friends so not much time for other things really.
I read toxic childhood in 2007 when it first came out, I'm really glad I did.
My dd is far more able to do things for herself, find her own interests and is really not interested in playing with gadgets.

domesticgodless Tue 05-Mar-13 21:14:35

Also is anyone noticing a strangely flattened, cynical affect in their pre teens? complete with 'whatevers' etc.

Mine are London kids - and children of divorce- and of course I feel I've failed them by not providing the idyllic country childhood where they could have run round a 200 foot garden with the dog and climbed trees etc. Not spent all day complaining of boredom and moaning because I hid the iPad again :D

Being single parent and working a long way away half the week, i'm not even able to have a dog.... which I know they would have loved.

I really do think it's a sad world they are growing up in but I really don't know what the solution is when so many of the issues are bigger than individual parents. We could revert to the 1950s and bring them up in ignorance but the real world is the one they will have to live in. However I am very worried about the flat consumerist monoculture of 'cool' that is being beamed at them from all angles. We can try to give them an alternative worldview but they may well dismiss it as 'old person stuff' because the lure of compulsory Cool is so much greater.

domesticgodless Tue 05-Mar-13 21:08:43

Sorry to be clearer I make them do 'boring' duties like housework because I cannot force them to do anything for pleasure, obviously. They will very rarely read voluntarily, draw, do crafts, do stuff in the garden, etc.

We did have a nice interlude with the 5 year old last week where he decided he wanted to make blutac sculptures and draw. Then it abruptly stopped and it has been back to the constant demands for YouTube.

I am genuinely thinking of burning that bloody iPad :D

domesticgodless Tue 05-Mar-13 21:05:17

I entirely agree with a lot of the 'toxic childhood' analysis but the problem is a lot of it lives in a bit of a fantasy world where we could all go back to 1950s with stay at home mums baking all day (it's always mums isn't it, never dads).

It simply isn't going to happen. Plus I am suspicious of this 'do not let children near digital technology' thing. This is the world they live in and which a lot of them are going to work in. I respect other families who play a lot of board games and do hearty outdoor stuff but that does not work for all children (or parents).

My biggest issue with my own children at the moment is the constant constant moaning about anything that is NOT screen based and the desperate addictive urge to rush back to the screen as soon as anything else can be perceived to be over with. I never played board games or did much sport as a child, I was a book nerd. I read and read and read. My sons only read for homework and otherwise if I ban the screens and order them to do it! Which surely isn't the way it should be???

At the moment I make them do stuff that bores them eg housework because it really worries me that at the ages of 5 and 9 they see YouTube as the ultimate in enjoyment. Particularly moronic spoken commentaries on video games. I mean is this all that culture has left to interest them??? It really saddens me but I don't know how to interest them in all the things that inspire me and sometimes I wonder if I am just a snob or an old curmudgeon!

Bonsoir Tue 05-Mar-13 21:01:32

I know far more overstretched parents than overstretched DC, to be honest. Most DC just don't continue with activities they don't want to do - piano teachers, art classes, competitive sport etc are not welcoming to those who are not motivated and DC self-select out of all those things if they aren't enjoying them.

There is HUGE variance too between DCs and what they are able to take on board - I know DCs for whom school is enough and others who pack in 10 extras quite happily and still have lots of time to relax and do their own thing.

exoticfruits Tue 05-Mar-13 20:22:18

Sorry her last book was about toxic childhoods, the latest in the Times is:

Unhappy daughters: how we are raising a troubled generation-

I don't know why Claire Perry was picked up and this one ignored. Unfortunately far too long to copy and paste on here.

wordfactory Tue 05-Mar-13 19:21:44

I hear you badguider.

Most of my DC's peers are high achieving middle class DC. Yes, some of them are a little overstretched ... but I really really would save my genuine concern for the DC who have real problems.

exoticfruits Tue 05-Mar-13 19:13:19

People were upset with snakes and ladders because you had a snake near the end and children got upset. I found that sort of thing very useful for teaching them that someone has to lose!
There was a very good article in the Times the day before about toxic childhoods and how the modern world is damaging our children and yet that has been ignored- it was far stronger than anything said by Claire Perry.

iclaudius Tue 05-Mar-13 19:03:55

Agree exotic and yes I too agreed with Jasmo

I think the 'generalisations' about children being alone in rooms with laptops are not generalisations .... Not for secondary school aged children on particular

If you have two or three kids and any sort of existence yourself - how cs. You adequately supervise an evening on the laptop . Kids aren't dim

Thisisaeuphemism Tue 05-Mar-13 18:12:44

Absolutely agree badguider.

The future of these tiny number of kids with over organised lives doesn't look so bleak to me. So they work in law but play tennis and piano to a high standard. How shocking! So they work in politics but never iron and have a cleaner? Outrageous.

There are one million young people not in work, education or training. Isn't that where we're getting it wrong?

exoticfruits Tue 05-Mar-13 18:12:21

At the risk of needing my tin hat - I thought Jasmo had a good post - except that a lot of parents have to work just to pay bills, and not the foreign holiday. I was rather shocked on a recent thread that people wouldn't play simple board games because they didn't like them, or the DC made a fuss if they lost.

wordfactory Tue 05-Mar-13 18:09:16

That is absolutely true Bonsoir.

Our generation have much bigger outgoings than the last. And I suspect our own DC's outgoings will be worse still.

People talk as if lap tops and phones were fripperies, but can they really be described as such in this technological age. And is it such a sin to want to travel abroad? Indeed, in this global age isn't it important for our DC to experience how small a place the world is?

badguider Tue 05-Mar-13 18:03:24

I run a guide unit in a very wealthy part of our city and my girls have got very over-organised lives with LOTS of after school sport, DofE, homework, guides, etc. But the parents will tell you that the girls are happy, they want to do each activity (even beg to) and it all helps them get into a good university these days. I give them as much leeway at guides to take decisions and risks and self-organise as I can but I am not NEARLY as worried about these slightly over-stimulated 14yr old girls as I am about the 14yr old girls in other parts of the city who are in the park on a friday night drinking buckfast and getting into all kinds of risky behaviour, or those who've never had an opportunity to explore their sport, art or academic potential and see no future beyond a NMW job.

Bonsoir Tue 05-Mar-13 17:53:58

"The trouble is it's all very well blaming parents for working too hard, but it is increasingly rare for families to survive on one wage. Not if one wishes to own a home, have children, help them through tertiary educaion and provide for retirement. Not unreasonable things!"

Indeed, and the cost of housing, of tertiary education and of retirement provision have gone through the roof in a generation - while tax rates have increased massively.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 05-Mar-13 17:52:19


Do you think it is like this now though because things have changed. You sound a bit older than me and I can remember when we first started out houses were a lot cheaper than now and it was a bit easier to survive on one income. It is nearly impossible now. Add this to the fact that full time jobs are not really the norm, many parents are both working part time jobs.

You are right though whether people like it or not the type you described do exist, as I said I too have seen this. Its not fair though to say this is typical of parents today as ime there are no typical parents.

twofingerstoGideon Tue 05-Mar-13 17:39:42

Jasmo todays' parents seem to spend no time with their children or allow them to learn through experience or risk taking. Children are either in their own rooms with TV/laptop or at an "activity". Both parents work far too long hours (earning money to buy laptops and TVs and 2/3 foreign holidays a year) and spend too little time with their kids.

As sweeping generealisations go, this one really takes the biscuit.
How do you know the intimate details of other people's lives, ie. how much time they spend in their rooms/at an activity? And do you not see how offensive your assertion that parents work long hours for the sole purpose of having gadgets and holidays is?

wordfactory Tue 05-Mar-13 17:37:39

The trouble is it's all very well blaming parents for working too hard, but it is increasingly rare for families to survive on one wage. Not if one wishes to own a home, have children, help them through tertiary educaion and provide for retirement. Not unreasonable things!

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