American parents think their kids are growing up too fast.
Growing up too fast was one of the top concerns parents all around the world had about their children at school, but U.S. parents said it’s their No. 1 worry. More than a third of parents said it was among their top three anxieties, according to a study by the UK-based Varkey Foundation, which interviewed 27,500 parents in 29 countries about their hopes, fear and aspirations. Comparatively, Japan was the least worried about this.
Other top concerns among all the parents surveyed were whether their kids are happy at school, whether they’re getting bullied and whether they’re physically safe, the survey found.
What children learn in the schoolyard is probably as influential as what they learn in the classroom, especially given the cost. That, understandably, is a concern for parents. On average, parents in the U.S. shell out $58,464 on their child’s education from primary school through the end of undergraduate studies at university, according to a report released last year from HSBC
But are these fears about growing up too fast justified? The traditional milestones of growing up have been blurred, said Joani Geltman, author of “A Survival Guide to Parenting Teens: Talking to Your Kids About Sexting, Drinking, Drugs, and Other Things That Freak You Out.”
These moments included when adolescents started wearing makeup, when teenagers experimented with drugs and the type of clothes young adults wear. All of them are happening at younger and younger ages, Geltman said. “There is nothing now that says, ‘You are too young for this,’” she said.
Part of the reason: Adolescents feel more pressure because of social media, which makes it easier than ever to compare themselves to one another. Teenagers are also more depressed than they were decades ago because of smartphones, according to a recent report from San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge. The more time spent on screens, the unhappier teenagers likely are.
See: As sexual harassment scandals multiple, parents rethink how they raise their children
For other youngsters, it’s much more grim. “Middle school is very much the new high school and high school is the new college, and in some cases, straight into adulthood,” said Shane Feldman, chief executive officer of Count Me In, an international youth group, and founder of MentorMyTeen.com, an online teen mentorship program.
Children are trying adult activities at an earlier age, Feldman said. Middle schoolers are trying drugs like marijuana while high schoolers are using harder drugs, and the former are also starting to experiment with sex, he said. This doesn’t mean there are more youngsters abusing drugs, though. There has been a decline in overall drug use among teenagers, as well as teenage pregnancies.
Also see: Rich parents are serving as ‘college concierges’ for their kids — and it’s fueling inequality
There’s one more unfortunate cause of early growing up for children these days: School shootings, both of which have taken over headlines and sparked serious conversations between children and their parents, legislators and teachers.
Not only have some children had to endure this experience first-hand, either directly through a school shooting or through active planning in case there’s one, but the discussion of shootings have become more easily discussable as the country has a national debate over gun control, said Kay Hymowitz, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute who widely writes about and discusses families and children.