Childhood Ends Before Age 12 & There’s Nothing You Can Do About It

OMG 18

child on beachDo remember when you first learned about sex? I'm not talking about that anatomy lesson from fifth grade health class. I mean the moment you really understood the non-biblical reason people had sex. I don't think I really figured it out until my teens, so I was a late bloomer by '90s standards, and by today's, I was practically ancient. That's because kids in the post-millennial world lose their innocence years before older generations did. New research suggests childhood is over at age 12. But in a world filled with headlines like "9-Year-Old Gives Birth," I'd say many kids stop being kids much younger.

Of course we moms and dads try to keep them young, but how can we succeed with so much working against us? Nearly 75 percent of parents say that their kids are losing "childlike qualities" well before the teens. Even worse, 1 in 10 said it was happening before 10. Only 1 in 50 parents were lucky enough to report they managed to keep their children from growing up too quickly before age 16.

Most parents (nearly 90 percent) felt that society was forcing their kids to mature entirely too fast. And they are right. They know so much more at age 7 than most of us did. Just look at what they are exposed to. It used to be that promiscuous behavior, violent brawls, or drunken nights were things to be embarrassed of. Now it's celebrated in our culture. Being outrageously wild is a path to stardom -- just look at Snooki and the rest of the Jersey Shore cast. Even worse, the Bad Girls Club. And what about the racy subject matter in magazines and movies? Then there's the fact that they idolize young-looking pop stars who get involved in sex or nude picture scandals.

But pop culture isn't the only problem. We didn't have the access to the Internet like they do now. One Google search exposes them to things I didn't even see until college. Seriously. I think we parents have become a little too relaxed too. I can't tell you how many tweens I see wearing tight, midriff-baring clothes. But keeping your child innocent is no easy task. It takes a lot of monitoring and being on top of what our children are doing all the time. With busy work, after school, and home duties, that is hard to do. But the alternative is just too scary.

Then, of course, there is the problem of their friends. You can do your best to shield your child from things, but you can't change what their friends are exposed to and then readily share. A friend of mine told me she overheard her 11-year-old daughter gabbing with a buddy in her bedroom. (Yes, she was eavesdropping.) They were talking about cute boys in their grade. Then the conversation took an alarming turn when the other girl started talking about blow jobs and how it's OK to do because it isn't really sex. Needless to say, the mom freaked out. She found an excuse to go in and send the girl home early. Now she is struggling to figure out how to talk to her child about something no 11-year-old should need to talk about. 

Bottom line is, I don't think there is a surefire way to keep our kids totally innocent -- unless you move to some remote farm and homeschool. We should continue to try, of course, but it could be just luck of the draw.

Have you figured out a way to keep your kids from growing up too fast?


Image via mikebaird/Flickr

behavior, sex & dating, tweens


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nonmember avatar Cass

Accept the reality and prepare your child for it? Kids get messed up by being exposed to stuff without support. Shelter them from what you can, but when it's something out of your control, help them understand their newfound knowledge. Don't just say "no watching Jersey Shore", but explain why you don't think it's acceptable behavior and discuss it with them. Kids aren't stupid- they will remember how you respond to their questions. Trust me- you don't want a kid afraid to come to you with questions. That's when they start googling, and innocence is lost quickly.

eupeptic eupeptic

In my view protecting "innocence" (which to me is an idealized way of saying "ignorance") is at odds with teaching one how to become a self-respecting adult. Trying to keep young people ignorant of what may lie ahead in their future is likely to backfire on them by causing them to not feel comfortable discussing important things with their parents (and/or other adults) because their parents weren't comfortable discussing certain issues with their children. The more open, honest, and respectful you are with your children the more open, honest, and respectful your children will be. And the more respect you treat your kids with the more respect your kids will have for themselves. The more your kids respect themselves the more thought they will put into the decisions that affect them.

What I valued as a child was freedom and knowledge, not ignorance. I preferred to learn the things that adults know because the more I knew the more thought I could put into the decisions I'd make for myself. I prefer to think for myself rather than have others think for me as I am not a mindless sheep or robot. I am a human being who prefers to be in control of my own life rather than have others be in control of my life.

Do other people not feel the way I felt as a child? Do most people prefer to have decisions made for them when they were young?

Angie... AngieHayes

Why don't people stop trying to keep their children innocent and actually talk to them and accept that they are people who will grow up and have sex, give blow jobs, smoke weed and cigarettes, and live life, just like you did. I am not saying an 11 year old should do all those things, but its best to go in and talk to her about it instead of ignoring it.

Coles... Coles_mom

....and my mom's generation didn't understand what sex was until their wedding night....I graduated high school in the 90s and I feel stupid compared with kids that are 10 nowadays.

Vegeta Vegeta

Childhood is a mindset. I'm a fully functioning middle class adult with 2 full time jobs (36hr) and 2 college degrees. BUT I still enjoy being a kid in my free time.Videogames, cartoons, costume making, believing in magic and all that. If you open your mind and go to Disney world for a week (no kids) you'll see what I mean.

gabe05 gabe05

Innocence in an adult, or even teenager, would be about the same as ignorance, I would agree.  Parents who strive to keep their teenager's innocence by not explaining and talking about the hard stuff are doing a disservice to their kids.  However, my ten year old and seven year old are still innocent and I will continue to try to keep that for another few years.  They understand what sex is, but are shocked when I answered honestly that Mommy and Daddy still have sex even though we are done having babies.  Since we homeschool, I see no reason to explain oral sex to my young children.  In three years, things will change with my oldest, but he is still a little boy and innocence is not a bad thing.

bella... bellacazzate

Did you know that in the middle ages children were considered adults by the age of 10? The great equalizer was the vast majority's inability to read -- no matter their class. It was the printing press that gave people more access to books, thus more knowledge, finally separating adults from children. Adults could comprehend more and more, children had to work their way up, much in the same way we do today. 

It's all the materials available that keep us filled with more "knowledge" thus creating a divide and ensuring we need more and more protection from the loss of "innocence" (whatever that is). I think it's very naive to believe that what needs to be worried about is sex and alcohol etc. That that is the catalyst for the loss of innocence. It's the feeling of disenchantment upon discovering and understanding things weren't what they seemed that causes loss of innocence. Learning about sex doesn't make you lose your innocence, but understanding the feeling of being used might. Seeing people drink won't cause loss of innocence, but seeing the aftermath of an alcoholic's night out might. 

I think you're talking more about naivety or simpleness. 

nonmember avatar clp

I absolutely will NOT raise my child here. The kids seem so rude and uneducated, they have no respect. Their role models are horrible, how can a girl have self-respect when her own mother doesn't have any?

bleed... bleedingheart8D

I try and protect them as best I can but there comes a time when you have to talk about stuff  and prepare them for the world.

nonmember avatar anonymous

I disagree with a lot of you. In other time periods-such as the middle ages which another commenter mentioned-children were treated like little adults. We now know that is incorrect-children are different physically and psychologically from adults. Protecting a child's innocence is not the same thing as keeping them ignorant. Obviously there will come a point where a line has been crossed and the parent needs to recognize that their child needs to be treated in a more adult manner. Some kids will mature faster than others. I think what is upsetting is that more and more a child's own timeline for maturity is not a factor because outside factors force maturity on them before they are ready for it. You can monitor your child's viewing and do your best to screen their friends, but they will still hear and see things from casual acquaintances or at parties or classes, scouts, whatever......I absolutely do not mean that a child should be kept in ignorance, just that a child should be protected for as long as they personally need it, and this will be different for each child.

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