Documentary On Newstalk: Is Childhood Shrinking?

Sheena Horgan Investigates whether Irish children are growing up faster than previous generations...

This weekend, Documentary On Newstalk broadcasts a repeat of Sheena Horgan's documentary "Is Childhood Shrinking?"

Airing on Saturday 27th August at 7am and again at 10pm, "Is Childhood Shrinking?" investigates whether Irish children are growing up faster than previous generations, and if so, why is this happening and what are the consequences.  Supported by the Mary Raftery Journalism Fund the documentary examines whether the changes in modern day childhood are for the better or worse, or merely inevitable.

"Is Childhood Shrinking?" names and explores the pressures on today’s children - to behave more adult like, to achieve ‘perfection’, to present themselves in a particular way – that are influenced and accelerated by commercialism, advertising, and especially technology.  The accessibility and consequential impact of porn, along with the constant proliferation of an ideal and often sexualised image and message is discussed regarding advertising, music videos and social media.

Contributions by groups of teens and twenty something year olds corroborates why parents are paranoid, and the need for today’s kids to be more media literate.  The critical gap between today’s children’s life and digital literacy is seen as significant by psychotherapist Colman Noctor, Bodywhys’ Harriet Parsons and Webwise’s Simon Grehan.

Author of the UK governmental report “Letting Children Be Children” Reg Bailey refers to childhood as “the collateral damage” of a changing society, and Barnardos’ CEO Fergus Finlay talks about the “commodification of childcare.. and therefore childhood”. 

Parents’ role, and lack of ability, in helping children navigate childhood’s tech-saturated landscape is discussed, as well as how “parents are “fast-forwarding childhood”.

"Is Childhood Shrinking?" adds to and brings together the issues that are usually addressed discretely and collectively addresses them and presents the value and importance of debate and discussion around modern day childhood.

Key contributors include:

  • Kian Egan of Westlife and The Voice
  • Fergus Finlay of Barnardos
  • Reg Bailey author of the UK report "Letting Children Be Children"
  • Minister for Children & Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald
  • Colman Noctor, child and adolescent pschoyanalytical psychotherapist
  • Shiela Wayman Irish Times journalist
  • Professor Anthony Staines of DCU
  • Simon Grehan of Webwise
  • Harriet Parsons of Bodywhys
  • Orla Twomey of the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland
  • Primary school principal Grainne McGowan

In addition to expert opinion, the general public's perspective is also included with contributions from Foroige, parents, grandparents, teens and twentysomething year olds.

The documentary was co-produced and presented by Sheena Horgan.

The programme was made with the support of the Mary Raftery Fund for Investigative Journalism.