Junkfood Science: Good news on today’s childhoods

November 20, 2007

Good news on today’s childhoods

How often do we hear good news about our lives and health nowadays? Like, almost never! Parents are so surrounded by nonstop frightening news about their children, that they must find it hard to feel anything but worry for them.

Breaking through the relentless bad news, a recent report from the United States brought good news that the CDC estimates today's children will live longer, healthier lives than ever before. Today, similarly good news came from Britain with the release of a report on the health and welfare of children there, called Children and Young People Today. It was developed as the foundation for the UK government’s Children’s Plan and found most children have secure and happy lives, with greater opportunities than ever before.

The Children, Schools and Families Secretary, Ed Balls, said:

[T]here is much to be proud of about childhood in England today. The vast majority of children and young people feel happy and safe, live in stable family environments, enjoy life, are doing well at school and make a positive contribution to their communities and society.

All the evidence convinces me that we should reject theories that children growing up today are worse off than previous generations. I do not agree with claims that this is a worse time than ever to go through childhood.

With perpetual news of modern life as toxic to children and leaving them obese and ill, the BBC News focused on the reality of a far happier bigger picture:

Childhood is 'happy not toxic'

Scaremongering by adults has created a false impression of a "toxic childhood", says England's Children's, Schools and Families Secretary. Ed Balls, issuing a counterblast to pessimistic views of childhood, says the "vast majority of children feel happy and safe"…. "Childhood is better than it's been ever. It's not toxic, most young people are happy, most young people are doing better at school than they were, most young people are accessing new technologies, making friends... the trends are positive," Mr Balls said….


12.4 million aged under 19

95% had played sport in past month

77% use the internet at home

79% are in owner-occupier households

10% diagnosed with a mental disorder

Children had more opportunities in terms of travel, leisure and education than their predecessors, he said - but a relentless focus on bad news was creating an artificial sense of gloom. "If the only information that parents get is negative and worrying, they will become more concerned. We have a responsibility to redress the balance," he said.

The article goes on to give illustrations, describing how the streets are actually safer today, yet exaggerated scares have left parents afraid to let their children play outside or walk to school. Because the problems faced by children today are out in the open and discussed more, said Mr. Ball, it’s easy to be left with the mistaken impression that everything is worse.

Children have anxieties, of course, but the report surveyed 110,000 students and found that 93% of the children said they "felt happy about life at the moment."

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