The death of childhood?

A friend of mine was clearing out an old box of her belongings the other day and came upon a poster of Gary Glitter.

We all loved him – he was so cool, strutting his stuff in those impossible platform shoes.

Well, that’s how we remembered him, until he was sent to prison for criminal activities involving young girls in Thailand.

And now, the words ‘Jim’ll Fix it’ will never be the same again, either. We always thought Jimmy Saville was creepy and we’ve been proved right. Is nothing sacred?

The recent coverage of the Jimmy Saville case is an important reminder for us; not just about how precious children are but also that they have the right to be safe, to have a childhood.

As communicators we have a huge responsibility to children and young people.

We’ve all read the horror stories about girls as young as 8 worrying about their body image, kids carrying knives and getting involved in gangs before they’re even teenagers, children involved in prostitution.

But is it any less horrific that we’re encouraging them to have the best trainers, the latest gadgets, the coolest clothes if they’re going to fit in?

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to interview young people who’d turned their lives around with the help of a fantastic charity, Leap Confronting Conflict, as part of a commission to write the charity’s  annual impact report.

Nearly everyone I spoke to told me how hard it was growing up when the focus was so much on money and things. For many the only way to get them was to get involved in petty crime. Leap helped them understand the importance of the real things in life like being your own person, engaging positively with others, dealing with conflict before it gets out of hand – and some of that was about challenging the messages they encounter every day in the media and the constant barrage of advertising on their Ipads, phones, TVs – you name it.

Of course children are consumers, just as much as the rest of us – and I can remember the time when a Space hopper was my sole object of desire – but aren’t they entitled to enjoy life without the pressures of wondering whether they’re cool, sexy, envied, accepted? It’s bad enough that they’ll have to think about those things when they’re older.

If you’ve forgotten the innocent pleasures and fun children can have without being forced to be a grown up visit the Modern British Childhood exhibition at the Museum of Childhood . It’ll take you back to what it’s like to be a child and remind you that you only get to do it once.

People like Jimmy Saville used the power of being in the media to take away the innocence, fun and freedom of childhood.

Let’s make sure that, albeit more subtley, we’re not doing the same.






About Philippa

Philippa Cowley-Thwaites is a no-nonsense South Londoner with a passion for communications. Since graduating in English from London University in 1983 she has established herself as an expert communicator for a variety of brands in the private, public and voluntary sector with great success – she’s one of the best business writers in the business.

Leave a comment