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Old 11-26-2006, 05:17 PM   #1
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10 Is The New 15

What are the implications of all of this? Geesh it makes me feel so old when I think about what life was like for me at 10, and at 15. That quote from the doctor is very interesting, that physically they're adults but cognitively they're still children. How confusing must that be for a kid?

10 is the new 15 as kids grow up faster

By Martha Irvine, AP National WriterSun Nov 26

Zach Plante is close with his parents — he plays baseball with them and, on weekends, helps with work in the small vineyard they keep at their northern California home. Lately, though, his parents have begun to notice subtle changes in their son. Among other things, he's announced that he wants to grow his hair longer — and sometimes greets his father with "Yo, Dad!"

"Little comments will come out of his mouth that have a bit of that teen swagger," says Tom Plante, Zach's dad.

Thing is, Zach isn't a teen. He's 10 years old — one part, a fun-loving fifth-grader who likes to watch the Animal Planet network and play with his dog and pet gecko, the other a soon-to-be middle schooler who wants an iPod.

In some ways, it's simply part of a kid's natural journey toward independence. But child development experts say that physical and behavioral changes that would have been typical of teenagers decades ago are now common among "tweens" — kids ages 8 to 12.

Some of them are going on "dates" and talking on their own cell phones. They listen to sexually charged pop music, play mature-rated video games and spend time gossiping on MySpace. And more girls are wearing makeup and clothing that some consider beyond their years.

Zach is starting to notice it in his friends, too, especially the way they treat their parents.

"A lot of kids can sometimes be annoyed by their parents," he says. "If I'm playing with them at one of their houses, then they kind of ignore their parents. If their parents do them a favor, they might just say, 'OK,' but not notice that much."

The shift that's turning tweens into the new teens is complex — and worrisome to parents and some professionals who deal with children. They wonder if kids are equipped to handle the thorny issues that come with the adolescent world.

"I'm sure this isn't the first time in history people have been talking about it. But I definitely feel like these kids are growing up faster — and I'm not sure it's always a good thing," says Dr. Liz Alderman, an adolescent medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. She's been in practice for 16 years and has noticed a gradual but undeniable change in attitude in that time.

She and others who study and treat children say the reasons it's happening are both physical and social.

Several published studies have found, for instance, that some tweens' bodies are developing faster, with more girls starting menstruation in elementary school — a result doctors often attribute to improved nutrition and, in some cases, obesity. While boys are still being studied, the findings about girls have caused some endocrinologists to lower the limits of early breast development to first or second grade.

Along with that, even young children are having to deal with peer pressure and other societal influences.

Beyond the drugs, sex and rock'n'roll their boomer and Gen X parents navigated, technology and consumerism have accelerated the pace of life, giving kids easy access to influences that may or may not be parent-approved. Sex, violence and foul language that used to be relegated to late-night viewing and R-rated movies are expected fixtures in everyday TV.

And many tweens model what they see, including common plot lines "where the kids are really running the house, not the dysfunctional parents," says Plante, who in addition to being Zach's dad is a psychology professor at Santa Clara University in California's Silicon Valley.

He sees the results of all these factors in his private practice frequently.

Kids look and dress older. They struggle to process the images of sex, violence and adult humor, even when their parents try to shield them. And sometimes, he says, parents end up encouraging the behavior by failing to set limits — in essence, handing over power to their kids.

"You get this kind of perfect storm of variables that would suggest that, yes, kids are becoming teens at an earlier age," Plante says.

Natalie Wickstrom, a 10-year-old in suburban Atlanta, says girls her age sometimes wear clothes that are "a little inappropriate." She describes how one friend tied her shirt to show her stomach and "liked to dance, like in rap videos."

Girls in her class also talk about not only liking but "having relationships" with boys.

"There's no rules, no limitations to what they can do," says Natalie, who's also in fifth grade.

Her mom, Billie Wickstrom, says the teen-like behavior of her daughter's peers, influences her daughter — as does parents' willingness to allow it.

"Some parents make it hard on those of us who are trying to hold their kids back a bit," she says.

So far, she and her husband have resisted letting Natalie get her ears pierced, something many of her friends have already done. Now Natalie is lobbying hard for a cell phone and also wants an iPod.

"Sometimes I just think that maybe, if I got one of these things, I could talk about what they talk about," Natalie says of the kids she deems the "popular ones."

It's an age-old issue. Kids want to fit in — and younger kids want to be like older kids.

But as the limits have been pushed, experts say the stakes also have gotten higher — with parents and tweens having to deal with very grown-up issues such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Earlier this year, that point hit home when federal officials recommended a vaccine for HPV — a common STD that can lead to cervical cancer — for girls as young as age 9.

"Physically, they're adults, but cognitively, they're children," says Alderman, the physician in New York. She's found that cultural influences have affected her own children, too.

Earlier this year, her 12-year-old son heard the popular pop song "Promiscuous" and asked her what the word meant.

"I mean, it's OK to have that conversation, but when it's constantly playing, it normalizes it," Alderman says.

She observes that parents sometimes gravitate to one of two ill-advised extremes — they're either horrified by such questions from their kids, or they "revel" in the teen-like behavior. As an example of the latter reaction, she notes how some parents think it's cute when their daughters wear pants or shorts with words such as "hottie" on the back.

"Believe me, I'm a very open-minded person. But it promotes a certain way of thinking about girls and their back sides," Alderman says. "A 12-year-old isn't sexy."

With grown-up influences coming from so many different angles — from peers to the Internet and TV — some parents say the trend is difficult to combat.

Claire Unterseher, a mother in Chicago, says she only allows her children — including an 8-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter — to watch public television.

And yet, already, they're coming home from school asking to download songs she considers more appropriate for teens.

"I think I bought my first Abba single when I was 13 or 14 — and here my 7-year-old wants me to download Kelly Clarkson all the time," Unterseher says. "Why are they so interested in all this adult stuff?"

Part of it, experts say, is marketing — and tweens are much-sought-after consumers.

Advertisers have found that, increasingly, children and teens are influencing the buying decisions in their households — from cars to computers and family vacations. According to 360 Youth, an umbrella organization for various youth marketing groups, tweens represent $51 billion worth of annual spending power on their own from gifts and allowance, and also have a great deal of say about the additional $170 billion spent directly on them each year.

Toymakers also have picked up on tweens' interest in older themes and developed toy lines to meet the demand — from dolls known as Bratz to video games with more violence.

Diane Levin, a professor of human development and early childhood at Wheelock College in Boston, is among those who've taken aim at toys deemed too violent or sexual.

"We've crossed a line. We can no longer avoid it — it's just so in our face," says Levin, author of the upcoming book "So Sexy So Soon: The Sexualization of Childhood."

Earlier this year, she and others from a group known as the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood successfully pressured toy maker Hasbro to drop plans for a line of children's toys modeled after the singing group Pussycat Dolls.

Other parents, including Clyde Otis III, are trying their own methods.

An attorney with a background in music publishing, Otis has compiled a line of CDs called "Music Talking" that includes classic oldies he believes are interesting to tweens, but age appropriate. Artists include Aretha Franklin, Rose Royce and Blessid Union of Souls.

"I don't want to be like a prude. But some of the stuff out there, it's just out of control sometimes," says Otis, a father of three from Maplewood, N.J.

"Beyonce singing about bouncing her butt all over the place is a little much — at least for an 8-year-old."

In the end, many parents find it tricky to strike a balance between setting limits and allowing their kids to be more independent.

Plante, in California, discovered that a few weeks ago when he and Zach rode bikes to school, as the two of them have done since the first day of kindergarten.

"You know, dad, you don't have to bike to school with me anymore," Zach said.

Plante was taken aback.

"It was a poignant moment," he says. "There was this notion of being embarrassed of having parents be too close."

Since then, Zach has been riding by himself — a big step in his dad's mind.

"Of course, it is hard to let go, but we all need to do so in various ways over time," Plante says, "as long as we do it thoughtfully and lovingly, I suppose."

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Old 11-26-2006, 05:54 PM   #2
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I wonder what these kids will think of their childhoods when they grow up into actual adulthood. People in my age bracket all share a similar view that our child years were idyllic, free, filled with sport and games, no computers or anything flashy. We stayed kids until we were dragged into young adulthood. We look back fondly.
Will these kids?

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Old 11-26-2006, 06:32 PM   #3
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I don't see this as a new development.
For many years now it's rather normal to see 11-12 year olds attending parties drinking way too much (that age even one beer is too much, but they don't even start with beer) and staying out long after midnight.
Young first or second graders calling you swearwords or trying to push you aside waiting for the bus are not new as well.

I myself started playing computer games or watching movies not appropiate age 7 or 8.
And in kindergarten many of the other children whose parents were equipped with sattelite dishes talked about Knight Rider and other stuff they saw every day.

I think all this leads to a faster development, and as they say it even affects the physical development of kids.

I also think it's rather disturbing to see toy companies producing toys or computer games that are more and more violent for these tweens.
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Old 11-26-2006, 06:48 PM   #4
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My son is going to be 11 this winter he is a big kid and looks older than what he is. I monitor the tv, computer games, and music he listens to. I try to do so without being a tyrant. I try to get him interested in certain things without being to pushy. He is very athletic but, has already noticed girls wants the ipod and cell phone. Alot of his classmates are riding around town on their bikes already but not him....at least not yet. Its a job, to keep them from all these adult like things that are thrown their way everyday. Their attitude may be adult like, but when it comes down to it thats all thats adult about these kids...including mine.
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Old 11-26-2006, 06:51 PM   #5
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Maybe they won't miss it because they'll have nothing to compare it too. I think it's sad, though. What do they have to look forward to--no rites of passage, just more of the same.

And then there will be their kids. How quickly will they grow up?
No time to reflect, to sort things out. Maybe we're romanticizing our childhoods, not completely though. We had days that went on forever. How quickly their days must go.
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Old 11-26-2006, 06:59 PM   #6
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Originally posted by BonosSaint
Maybe they won't miss it because they'll have nothing to compare it too. I think it's sad, though. What do they have to look forward to--no rites of passage, just more of the same.

And then there will be their kids. How quickly will they grow up?
No time to reflect, to sort things out. Maybe we're romanticizing our childhoods, not completely though. We had days that went on forever. How quickly their days must go.

I used to remember the day taking forever to end and it seemed like I had so much time. Especially, spending my first 8 years in Brooklyn. Even my son says the day goes by so quickly...they do so much school work. He only does basketball on Saturdays at 11 right now and thats it, but he still thinks things just wiz by.
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Old 11-26-2006, 07:12 PM   #7
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Gosh, things have changed since I was that age.
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Old 11-26-2006, 07:47 PM   #8
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Talk about growing fast, a friend of mine's daughter had her first period a few months ago and she's only 8!
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Old 11-26-2006, 08:05 PM   #9
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THink of this: it's only been within the last century or so that 11 and 12 year olds weren't getting married and the like. Sometimes I think we try too hard to make sure kids have a childhood - it just doesn't freaking /end/. I think we're seeing the pendulum shift back towards the actual rate f maturation that is correct, biologically speaking.
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Old 11-26-2006, 08:23 PM   #10
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Devlin is correct, but that doesn't make it psychologicaly healthy.
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Old 11-26-2006, 08:42 PM   #11
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Originally posted by The_One1932
Devlin is correct, but that doesn't make it psychologicaly healthy.
Is it inherently psychologically unhealthy or only unhealthy because of the culture we live in?
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Old 11-26-2006, 09:09 PM   #12
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thats the real question now isn't it?!
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Old 11-26-2006, 09:39 PM   #13
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There's a big difference, though, between giving two 14-year-olds both the responsibilities and the sexual outlet that marriage provides, and doing what we do--which is delay the responsibilities part until later, while meanwhile allowing regular exposure to sexual stimulation from late childhood on. Devoting most of your second and even third decades of life to education has the benefit of enabling a higher standard of living in later years, but it also means spending most of your youth in what is in fact a very unnatural social environment, i.e., where virtually all your peers are the exact same age. I think a lot of people spend much of their late 20s and 30s unlearning that impulse to limit their social networks to people of near-identical age and life experiences--you can get away with that while you've still got Mom and Dad supporting you, but once you don't, it gradually but inevitably becomes untenable.
Originally posted by BonoVoxSupastar
Talk about growing fast, a friend of mine's daughter had her first period a few months ago and she's only 8!
One of our son's friends invited all his classmates to his 9th birthday party a few weeks ago. I helped his parents out with overseeing the activities and noticed that a couple of the girls were already clearly developing. I felt sorry for them--girls who develop first always get extra taunting and humiliation from their classmates, and boys that age in particular are often cruelly immature in how they respond. The adults present also got a chuckle out of how the boys with the most obvious "Ewww, girls!" attitudes were unmistakably also the ones who were most preoccupied with girls at the same time.

I think one of the potentially more problematic consequences of cellphones, MySpace and the like is that they tend to expand that age-group bubble young people already live in all the more, not because of anything inherent in the technology but because of the environment they're being used in. It's very difficult for parents to confidently weigh the benefits of such things against any adverse effects they might have--it's normal and healthy for t(w)eens to begin turning elsewhere for socialization, but inevitably this turns into perceiving parents as unwelcome interlopers at times, and often something that parents perceive as simply "spending time together" (like the father in the story, biking with his son) is interpreted by kids as an attempt to control their time and activities. Nothing new about this of course, but the more competition there is for your child's attention and the less you know about who they're interacting with and how, the harder it is. Being suspicious and overprotective is always unhelpful, but you have to guard against that tendency to want to be your child's pal and always on their "good side", too--ultimately that's not the job you've been charged with, and having already earned their trust in childhood is crucial to being able to wield authority appropriately later.
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Old 11-26-2006, 10:36 PM   #14
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Color me obvious, but I just see this in relation to how our world has evolved. There simply wasn't the same "cool" things availible when most of us were kids as there is now. I didn't see my mom or dad on a cell phone, so I didn't feel I needed one. I remember when the word "virgin" was said on "Saved by the Bell" and I had to ask my mom what that meant. I couldn't watch that show for weeks b/c it was such a big deal.

I'm not defending, or applauding this early maturation at all however, b/c I've seen it myself in working with kids at the gym I used to work at. For whatever reason, it always rubbed me the wrong way. Like, childhood was escaping these kids and they didn't even know it. I don't know, again maybe I'm too old school or conservative, but if we skip childhood and get strait to teenage years so fast, what kind of things will these "kids" that we talk about not only want, but NEED next?

Edit: I walked away and thought of this however as well. What about those kids who develope faster or mature faster? Is it fair to try and hold them back? Their development isn't anyone's fault at all. I don't know. Tough issue.
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Old 11-27-2006, 12:20 AM   #15
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I (male) matured at a very young age, i started puberty at like 9 (no joke) was shaving by 11 and excelled at school... and then i got really, really bored (and started going bald at 14 to boot!). It would have theorheticaly been in my best interest to get my GED and start at a JC when i should have been in high school. But from a cultural standpoint, the high school years are socially formative in a way that can't be measured. The people that learned to communicate and network in high school have excelled in many ways, whereas i also see that the people that couldn't develop these skills are still suffering for it. what if i had missed those years and gone to a JC??? i'll never know.

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