Childhood Belongs to Children
Parents and families are increasingly anxious about the safety of children and allowing them freedom to explore or to spend time away from the close supervision of adults. Growing numbers of children with mental health issues, obesity, the sexualisation of children and impact of the media and technology are threatening childhood for many children. Berry Street will extend its focus to protecting childhood and doing what we can to make sure that childhood belongs to children.
Berry Street believes every child should have a good childhood – this is their right. Childhood should be about the joys of discovery and play, developing friendships and time with family, learning and adventures, dreaming and creating, mucking up, falling over and getting up. It should be a time free from the burdens of adult life without it being a time when children are overly sheltered or contained. Children learn by taking risks, making mistakes and trying again.
Parents and families are increasingly anxious about the safety of their children and allowing them the freedom to explore their neighbourhood, to walk to and from school, to play outside or to spend time away from the constant supervision of adults. Whilst concerns about child safety can see children withdraw from public spaces paradoxically parents are equally concerned about increasing ’screen time’, children not exercising and children being exposed to other risks through the internet. Cyber bullying and the potential for children to be exposed to risks in the online world are issues of national prominence.
To some extent childhood has become a series of sporting, music and recreational activities as play has become a commodity rather than something kids and families just do. But a hectic childhood is not the same as a full childhood. Providing children with endless opportunities to participate whilst juggling all of life’s other demands are often a recipe for family stress rather than healthy child development.
Our work in child welfare focuses on children at risk and protecting those children. There is a need to broaden our focus and understand that childhood is also at risk and needs protection. We shouldn’t allow childhood to be eroded by commercialisation, the sexualisation of young children, particularly young girls and the inappropriate targeting of children by advertisers as a market to exploit. Childhood must belong to children.
Key Areas of Advocacy and Action
- Provision of high quality early learning and care services and in-home support for vulnerable families with young children to ensure vulnerable children have the highest level of access to services and support in the early years
- Development of stronger regulatory framework to prevent the targeting of children in commercial advertising and the commercial and sexual exploitation of children
- Establishment of mandatory ‘child friendly community’ planning guidelines to ensure that urban and regional development in response to population growth creates the highest level of public amenity for children