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'Be outraged' on childhood

02 November 2006

by Bill Bowder

ENGLAND should be outraged by its treatment of childhood. Society shoulcopy Victorian reformers, and challenge the loss of childhood, said the Children's Commissioner, Professor Sir Albert Aynsley-Green, at the launch of The Good Childhood Inquiry by the Children's Society on Monday

Professor Aynsley-Green, a specialist in child health, compared moder"blindness" concerning children's experience to Victorian blindness to thdevastating impact of industrialisation on children. In the 21st centurychildhood was fast disappearing under pressures from commercialisation, sexualisation, and the loss of time to be a child, Professor Aynsley-Green said. To most people, children were "invisible", except when they were being demonised as feral hoodies.
The inquiry into childhood will bchaired by Professor Judith Dunn, a child-development psychologist at King'College, London. It's patron is the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said on the Today programme on Radio 4 on Monday that the children surveyed reported tha they were under pressure from bullying, from their peers, and from "the overloading of the curriculum".

"We are talking about one in ten young people with measurable, identifiable mental-health problems, including self-harm and clinical depression - now that's a very disturbing statistic," said Dr Williams.

Lord Lyard, author of a book on happiness, and a member of the inquiry team, said that evidence showed a steady increase in emotional disturbancamong young people. Fewer young teens in Britain (40 per cent) than in Sweden (70 per cent) believed their classmates would help them.

The Children's Society's chief executive, Bob Reitemeier, said: "We want tknow what are the obstacles to a good childhood." One way to improve childhoowas through the local environment. Faith made a difference in this.

In the survey of 8000 children last year, children put relationships, safety issues, and freedom at the top of their agenda, although parents did not rate relationships so highly.

Evidence from children at the launch was mixed: Peter, aged 17, said there was nothing wrong with spending a long time on computers, because children were preparing for modern living. Jodie, a seven-year-old, said the most important thing was family.

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