21st Century Boys with Sue Palmer

21st Century Boys with Sue Palmer

21st Century Boys

How modern life is driving them off the rails and how we can get them back on track.

"While researching and writing 21st Century Boys, I kept remembering the words of economist Richard Layard. As one of Britain's foremost economists, he believes that hyper-competitive consumerism is now eroding social capital, the glue that holds communities together. I asked what we needed to do to get society back on track, and his off-the-cuff reply was: 'we just have to change the relative prestige accorded to smart-arsed behaviour and that accorded to kindness'."- Sue Palmer

In this important book Sue Palmer, the author of Toxic Childhood and Detoxing Childhood, assess the issues currently confronting boys from birth to when they leave school, and explains how we can all help to ensure they emerge as healthy, normal adults. Based on the latest research from around the world, 21st Century Boys provides parents, teachers and others with a clear pathway to bringing up boys.
What's happening to boys? At home, they sprawl before a flickering screen, lost in a solitary, sedentary fantasy world; at school, the choice of role seems limited to nerd or thug, victim or bully. By the time they reach their teens, the chance of depression, self-harm, drug or alcohol abuse grow each year. In such an environment, raising boys has never been more difficult.

For the sake of their sons, parents need to know the facts about how boys develop an how best to protect them from the damaging effects of modern life. For the sake of our future, we all need to recognise the problems of 21st century boys, and to support parents in stemming the growing tide of detachment and disaffection.

Renowned education specialist and author Sue Palmer provides important new insights into the difficulties of raising boys, and how parents can help their sons fulfill their potential.

Sue Palmeris a writer, broadcaster and consultant on the education of young children. A former head teacher, she lectures widely around the world, and has given independent advice to many organsiations, including the BBC and the British government's education department.

21st Century Boys
Hachette Australia
Author: Sue Palmer
ISBN: 9780752890111
Price: $32.99

Interview with Sue Palmer about 21st Century Boys

Why did you choose to write 21st Century Boys?

Sue Palmer: My previous book, Toxic Childhood, investigated the side-effects of contemporary that may be interfering with children's brain development. I looked at various areas, such as diet, sleep patterns, electronic entertainment, marketing and so on. I was now interested in tracing children's developmental trajectory from conception to the teenage years, and seeing which influences were most significant at each stage. When I began work on this, I realised there would have to be two books, one on boys and one on girls, because the trajectory was different from the beginning. Boys seem at the moment to be getting the worse deal (the stats on boys' educational, behavioural, emotional and social development are more depressing than those for girls) so I started with the boys book. I'm just starting work on the girls one at the moment.

Why do you suggest that boys be kept from screen-based activities until three years old?

Sue Palmer: Brain development in the first three years is very rapid (more neural connections are made than at any other time in one's life) and hugely significant for a person's emotional, social, physical and cognitive functioning indeed for one's development as a human being. Healthy development depends on real life interaction with the real world (movement, touch, smell, sight, and sound whole physical involvement) and first-hand interactions with real human beings (love, discipline, play and the learning of communication skills). If children instead spend their time sitting in front of screens, they will not develop into bright balanced resilient human beings.

Is this the same for females?

Sue Palmer: Yes, but females, from the moment of birth are more naturally inclined to be sociable than males, so are more drawn to human interaction. Boys seem, from birth, to be more naturally drawn to screens, so are more likely to adjust to screen-based entertainment as their 'default mode' of behaviour.

This isn't to say girls won't go the same way if not carefully nurtured. But for biological reasons the problem hasn't yet been so immediate for them.

Through your research have you seen any benefits from video and computer games?

Sue Palmer: Once children can talk fluently and interact satisfactorily with the real world and real people (and also -- preferably -- read and write) there are many benefits to be had from video (which can open up a wider world than the immediate one on their doorstep) and computer games (which involve mental patterning and help develop skills needed in a digital world). My concern is that we need first to build the experiential and linguistic foundations of human intelligence, rather than try to fast-forward children into their digital future.

I understand that physical exercise is important, how can parents encourage their boys to participate in physical exercise?

Sue Palmer: It's not merely physical exercise. You can get that through sport or other organised outdoor activities. For healthy emotional, social, cognitive and physical development in the first ten or so years, children need plenty of outdoor, loosely-supervised play (the sort of freedom to play on their own terms that's been children's birthright in all times and all cultures until this one). Boys particularly need to run, jump, climb, scramble and play-fight, without too much adult interference or control. Parents, schools and local communities have to ensure that there are places children can do this -- which means getting over the current obsession with 'health and safety' (as one of the great play experts said 'Better a broken bone than a broken spirit'). In urban environments, it means we have to start valuing our children more than our cars. And the older generation has to remember being young, and start being tolerant of youngsters' play. It seems we've turned into Selfish Giants, who want children to be neither seen nor heard...

What are some other difficulties you are seeing in boys?

Sue Palmer: 1) Formal schooling starts far too early these days, before most boys are ready to settle to pencil and paper work. This means we switch many of them off school before they're even started. (Girls seem to cope better, but I fear that, in their case, we're just making them more compliant....)
2) Aggressive marketing (via the screens they're all glued to) sells them stereotypical macho, aggressive, 'edgy' role models and an 'I want' mentality.... and pester power doesn't contribute to family harmony.
3) As men withdraw from the child-rearing equation, there are too few real life responsible male role models in boys' lives, especially in the teenage years. We're leaving teenage boys to the mercy of the market and the peer group (or a lonely existence in front of a screen), which is asking for trouble.

Is raising boys more difficult than girls?

Sue Palmer: I suspect that, in the last twenty years (as the world became increasingly uptight, upfront and urban... and as we moved towards the current levels of screen saturation), it most definitely has been, and that's why we're seeing so many problems with them. But I fear the girls are rapidly coming up on the outside.

We need, as a society, to start 'detoxifying childhood' or we'll build up more and more problems for the future.



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