Is 'Junk Culture' Wrecking Our Children?

The Daily Telegraph reports on a letter sent to their London headquarters bemoaning the effect of "junk culture" on the younger generation:
A sinister cocktail of junk food, marketing, over-competitive schooling and electronic entertainment is poisoning childhood, a powerful lobby of academics and children's experts says today. In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, 110 teachers, psychologists, children's authors and other experts call on the Government to act to prevent the death of childhood. They write: "We are deeply concerned at the escalating incidence of childhood depression and children's behavioural and developmental conditions."
I agree that many of pop culture's products produce a toxic effect and am also concerned about the current suffering of children, but some of the finger-pointing taking place across the Atlantic reminds me of our own so-called "high" culture's antagonism towards youth (or "low") culture. Were any of these academics and experts born after 1970? Or 1980? I'd be curious to find out. Listen to the shared and outspoken conviction of faculty in Bowling Green State University’s Department of Popular Culture Studies: "Materials which are genuinely popular, whether we ourselves approve of or enjoy any particular item or genre, are socially and possibly aesthetically significant."

A major shift took place during the industrial revolution as children exited the workplace and delayed entrance into adult life in a newly created developmental phase called "adolescence." Another cataclysmic shift may be taking place now as younger people become more adept than their elders at wielding economic tools like phones and computers. History shows that cultural change is painful in the short run, and that different groups in society suffer more than others, but in the long run come gains along with the losses.

In the meantime, it's impossible for anybody to deny that many of our kids are in pain. "Who is to blame?" the newspaper asks, inviting answers from readers. Most interesting (to me, at least) was a single comment hidden in the reams of responses like a jewel: "Neither they nor their parents fear God and want to please Him."

3 comments:

martha said...

The last line of your article says it all! Searching for "cultural" clues seems an exercise for agnostics and atheists. I've just finished Eccelestiastes, so I'm not inclined to see that "in the long run come gains with the losses." How do you talk to a group that assumes that technological advances means we're progressing or that they have no one to "please" but themselves? It really seems like more of the same old idolatry, doesn't it? I don't have teenagers yet, but I came of age in the early '80's, and the culture was craven then, too -- cocaine, casual sex, yadda yadda yadda. . .

Anonymous said...

I'm with Martha. We may remember the good old days as better than they were, but since when have we seen culture improve "in the long run". Thanks for writing and keeping us thinking!

Mitali Perkins said...

Thanks for the encouragement. You'll note that I said in the long run come gains as well as losses. This was in response to the bemoaning attitude of us middle-aged folks that "everything's going to the dogs!" Some things are getting better, some are getting worse. In the "idyllic" fifties, for example, where "family values" ruled the day, I couldn't drink from the same water fountain as my husband, and in most of the states, our marriage would be illegal.