Peter Pan parents fail as gatekeepers

Half of teenage girls, in a survey commissioned by the teenage
magazine, Bliss, say they cannot cope with the pressures of modern
life. The study questioned 2,000 girls with an average age of 14.
One in three of the teenagers interviewed said they were not part
of a “happy family”; 37 per cent said their parents had separated
and only 32 per cent said they felt greatly loved. Six out of 10
admit to feeling insecure about their looks.

“Cannabis has been downgraded and 24-hour a day drinking is on the
horizon. It’s a free for all,” says Bliss editor Lisa Smorsarski .

Acute self-consciousness, angst and the conviction that all adults
are from another planet determined to spitefully sabotage the
pleasures of youth have long been a part of teenage life.

However, the added ingredient that we also have today, in some
quarters, is a reversion back to the middle ages when, for the
young, there was no childhood, only a miniature version of the
adult world.

Young people have easy access to a grown-up and frightening
universe through television, DVDs and the internet. In addition,
the cult of the celebrity continues to give an inflated value to
the superficial; while magazines and the TV soaps portray personal
relationships as a wasteland of betrayal, cruelty and infidelity –
too often reflected in reality at home.

Popular culture, however, has always gone against the grain of
family life. In the 1950s, parents fretted about the adverse
effects of rock ‘n’ roll. What’s perhaps different today is that
too few adults are willing or able to act as gatekeepers for their
children, protecting them from the more perverse aspects of the
outside world. We also appear to have an increase in Peter Pan
parents, themselves unwilling to grow up, who are consciously
catapulting their children prematurely into the life of an older
teenager; little women before their time.

It’s mothers who buy highly sexualised clothes for the under-10s
and encourage them to “date” long before their teens. One of the
long-term consequences of too much, too soon and a huge
concentration on appearance for young women who lack confidence,
direction or aspirations is, at times, self-destructive and
challenging behaviour .

Two-thirds of the girls interviewed in the survey believed that it
was easier for their parents when they were young. It probably was
for a variety of reasons, not least that then children were allowed
to grow up at their own pace.

Yvonne Roberts

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