Skip to content


October 15, 2010

This is the third of four videos. If you like it, please share it with friends. Better still, arrange a time to chat it through (see more at

And for more thoughts on the issues raised…

Every generation gets nostalgic. There were good things about growing up in the 40s/50s/60s/70s/80s/90s (delete as applicable); there were bad things, too. But while we are prone to looking back rosily on our upbringing, this shouldn’t make it impossible to ask tough and clear questions about the state of childhood today.

It will help us to stick as closely to the facts as we can:

  • Childhood obesity has, until very recently, been rising steeply (between 1995 and 2004 it doubled). Currently 1.5 million children are overweight or obese.
  • Children spend less time playing outdoors. Research from the States suggests that outdoor play has declined by as much as 50% in 20 years
  • Reported child stress and anxiety is on the rise. 
  • There has been a marked increase in the amount of time children spend in front of TV / computer / phone screens. US studies have shown that 2-5 years olds spend 32 hours a week of screen time, rising to more than 53 hours for 8-18 year olds. In the UK, the 52 hour figure is for 11-15 year olds, up from 40 hours in 1996.

These trends prompted over 100 psychologists, educationalists, children’s authors and health experts to write to The Daily Telegraph in 2006: “Children…still need what developing human beings have always needed, including real food (as opposed to processed “junk”), real play (as opposed to sedentary, screen-based entertainment), first-hand experience of the world they live in and regular interaction with the real-life significant adults in their lives.”

How should we respond to these issues? Obviously we have a duty of care towards children: to raise them in healthy, socially beneficial ways and to help them enjoy and appreciate the world God made (which implies spending at least some time outside!). We are also responsible for stewarding the imagination of the next generation. If we expose them regularly to acquisitive images, should it surprise us if research shows that they tend to be more materialistic?

When Jesus spoke of children, he pointed out their tendency to reveal the truth about us. To have little place for children, and other ‘little ones’, is to have little place for him (Matthew 18:5-6). What might the state of childhood reveal about us? Could it be that, in the words of The Children’s Society: “Most of the obstacles children face today are linked to the belief among adults that the prime duty of the individual is to make the most of their own life, rather than contribute to the good of others”?

The question about childhood is a question about the soul of our society. How much do we want to invest in our children? How much do we intend to pass on the practices and stories of the kingdom to the next generation (Psalm 78:3-4)? Are there things that have become more important to us than raising children with good values? 

More videos, and discussion resources, at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: