National Tweens

Emergence of Tweens

Kids Growing Up Too Fast?

By Daniel Muniz

Without a doubt, adolescence is a difficult and grueling time for teenagers as well as for parents. Adults have already staked out their lot in life while their offspring are just being to discover and explore the newness of the vast world outside the protective shelter of their home life.

And regardless of the nonsense that television shows and movies often depict, teenagers simply do not have the wisdom or the street smarts to tackle the critical issues and tough decisions of the real world. Nor do they truly understand the wiles and the allure of commercialism and pop culture. In fact, there are plenty of full grown adults who still have a difficult time dealing with their own maturity in our complex world.

Not surprisingly, every generation of responsible parents have reason to be concerned and alarmed with what their kids are doing during their adolescence especially since they have gone through such turbulence themselves.

Today, many kids watch violent movies loaded with gratuitous sex, play video games with mature adult content, listen to sexually explicit pop and rap music, and spend hours endlessly surfing the net while trolling the MySpace accounts of their friends and acquaintances. And what comes out of a kid’s mouth are the latest catchphrases and hip language.

But what is really beginning to bother some parents today is that these kids are not teenagers at all but tweens. That is, children who are between the ages of 8 and 12 (and sometimes they are even younger) who exhibit the behavior and attitude that usually begins in the teenage years. And such behavior is now becoming commonplace for more children at much younger ages.

In fact, it is not uncommon for a kid who is barely starting middle school to start going out on real dates, have a laptop, cell phone, iPod, and a MySpace account. And their leisure time also includes much of the same activities that teenagers are already doing in high school.

Although responsible parents already expect to deal with such issues when their children become teenagers, it is most disturbing when these problems have to be dealt with when their child is only 10 years old or younger. Fortunately, some parents are relived that their 10 year olds still act like 10 year olds but perhaps by the next generation of kids, much of that will change since popular culture is already reaching into the younger age brackets.

Of course, the first culprit is commercialism.

It has always been a known fact that teenagers are a rather affluent consumer group and that they have access to money. In fact, marketers have fought bitterly for decades to shape the spending habits of teens, which have also helped to unnecessarily add to the burdens of adolescence.

However, it didn’t take long for marketers to discover that tweens also have money and that they can directly influence the spending habits of their parents. Amazingly, tween spending from gifts and allowances amounts to roughly about 51 billion dollars a year. In their own right, American children from the ages of 8 through 12 represent a formidable consumer class. And they also have a tremendous influence on the 170 billion dollars that their parents annually spend on them.

That is a lot of money so as a result, retailers are focusing a tremendous marketing effort to reach out to them. Clothing manufacturers and retail chains like Target have responded by hawking sexy padded bras and panties to girls as young as 6 years old. Consequently, very young boys and girls are starting to look and dress older and mimic the clothing of their teenage counterparts.

But why would a 10 year old girl need sexy lingerie? Is there anyone that she is supposed to be titillating with it? And is a 12 year old girl supposed to be sexy?

Unfortunately, the answer lies with parents. If parents didn’t actually buy sexually provocative clothing for their kids, then there wouldn’t be a market for it. The same goes with the buying sexually explicit CDs and violent DVDs and mature video games and just about everything else that teenagers have.

Of course the other culprit is pop culture itself. Commercialism is only half of the equation but the celebrities, movie stars, pop and rap singers, and professional athletes also have a tremendous influence in shaping the development of very young kids. And they also want them to buy their music, movies, and anything associated with their retailing.

But in all truthfulness, none of this can happen without the permission of parents.

And therein is the heart of the problem. Parents who easily abdicate their parental responsibilities with pressure from their teenagers will also do the same with pressure from tweens.

It is this type of dysfunctional parenthood that makes it difficult for all the responsible parents. That is, parents who are trying to do the right thing by shielding their 8 or 10 year old from the adult world end up having kids who are isolated from their peers because their friends are already enjoying cell phones, laptops, iPods, MySpace accounts, sexy underwear and clothes, and everything else.

The emergence of tweens who behave like teenagers hasn’t reached epidemic proportions but the trend is there and it is definitely growing. Life is already difficult enough for teenagers who have to deal with tough decisions thus it is important for parents to be ever vigilant so that their children can remain children before they reach their teenage years. And it is equally important to let a kid enjoy being a kid because that stage of life can never be regained.