A hyperreflexive blog focussing on critical sociology, infographics, Buddhism and extreme early retirement

Archive for the 'Childhood' Category

Policing the public-private divide in Thames Ditton

Posted by Realsociology on 13th October 2013

Police in Surrey have warned families that it is a crime for their children to skateboard and play football on the road. Police in Thams Ditton posted notices through doors in a residential street in Thames Ditton, Surrey, which left children as young as six scared that they would be arrested for playing outside.


Detectives said in the letter that they were ‘reminding parents and youths of their legal and social responsibilities’, adding that ‘playing football or other sports in the street is a criminal offence’

So what are we to make of this?

Firstly, it’s a good example illustrating the public obsession with safety culture – safety becoming the rationale for justifying an increasingly wide array of actions, and here the police are merely responding to a widespread public demand that children be kept safe, and over-regulating children in the process (a time-honoured tactic in liquid modern Britain).

This is also an example of the police policing the contemporary ‘public-private divide’ and reinforcing our normative structures. What were these children and parents thinking after all? That public streets exist for mutual frivolity? NO! Public spaces are places where people, on all occasions, must act as isolated individuals – and streets especially are places in which people should drive around in cars, closed off from the world, public spaces are not for community

These unconscious thought structures must have been at the root of the residents who would have complained about those kids. The police wouldn’t send such leaflets out on their own initiative, without some sort of prompt which they had to respond to, and this is almost certainly an example of the police covering their own backs, responding to a civil complaint.

Finally, it is possible that the root of all this lies in legitimate complaints. I wonder how much respect these middle class children actually have for ‘their community’? Given that this is an area where the average house prices top £500K, I doubt if they’ve imbibed much of a community spirit, and I imagine that there’s every possibility that when a bunch of these kids get together in a street for what’s very possibly their first experience of freedom in any meaningful sense of the word, that the result would be loud  self-centred and obnoxious affair.

 As an afterthought.. this also goes to show the damage that poorly worded documentation can do. If the person who wrote this had chosen their words more carefully the leaflet wouldn’t had been anywhere near as offensive.

NB, it’s worth noting that Inspector David Hollingworth has apologised for the leaflets, and pointed out that officers wanted to raise awareness of the dangers. He said of the leaflet: “It ­correctly identified that playing games such as football on the highway may be unlawful in some circumstances. However, this would not in any way be criminal behaviour.”



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Coffee really is bad for your health (and safety)

Posted by Realsociology on 10th March 2012

Two nice articles illustrating the madness of health and safety… both concerning coffee….

In Bournemouth, a bus driver ordered passengers off a bus after a woman spilled some coffee. One woman spilt a third of her cup of coffee while getting on the bus, and then a further ten people were told they couldn’t get on because specialist cleaners were needed to clear up the ‘dangerous liquid’. The bus was pulled to one side and a replacement vehicle ordered, leaving the ten passengers to wait in the rain.

Secondly, according to and item I found in The Week, “health and safety officials in Warwickshire have banned hot drinks at a mothers’ coffee morning. ‘Coffee and play’ sessions at the Children’s Centre in Stratford-upon-Avon have been renamed ’baby play’ and parents now catch up over a (plastic) cup of squash or water. The council said its ‘hot drinks policy’ was to minimise the risk of scalding children. ”

These two cases together are a wonderful illustration of the far reaching effects of  ’individualisation’ and ‘litigation culture’ working together to result in collective lunacy – Both cases involve local councils who are no doubt very aware of the potential of being sued for any ‘preventable accidents’ on their property – a situation which can only happen when the populace at large are highly individualised – feeling little sense of obligation to wider society, while feeling they have the right (in this goaded by claims lawyers) to cream as much out of society as they can when the opportunity arises.

Going a little deeper – I’d blame neoliberalism for this – a political economy that allows individuals the freedom to exploit and enrich themselves at the expense of others – this is the kind of logic that has lead to the emergence of ‘Fortress Cities’ – in which the rich defend themselves in gated communities and SUVs against the increasing numbers of urban poor.

I think its appropriate to view the above two cases as local councils adopting a ‘fortress city’ mentality – setting up rules that protect themselves against any selfish individual who might try to make money out of them by holding them responsible and suing them for those unfortunate accidents (slipping/ scalding) that are, in reality, just an unfortunate and it has to be said extremely rare part of modern life.

Although, the optimist in me sees an opportunity for collective action in this – On reflection I’m wondering if the first case isn’t part of a surreptitious ’work to rule’ campaign on the part of a unionised bus driver, whose just had a pay freeze? – Maybe this raises the possibility of using health and safety as part of a campaign against public sector cuts….

So in the interests of health and safety I think all unionised teachers should cease doing all of the following – Any curricular activities involving physical activities, especially school trips; any teaching that involves teaching to tests, in fact we should drop all testing and examinations altogether, this causes way to much stress to our delicate children; and all marking and preparation outside of class – associated with numerous health problems such as RSI, eye strain, back pain and stress in general.

In fact, perhaps we could go further, in the interests of health and safety, maybe we should just stop doing anything, and just….. sit there, over coffee of course.

Posted in Childhood, Crime and Deviance, Sociological Theory | No Comments »

Ralph Lauren and the commericalisation of childhood

Posted by Realsociology on 14th May 2011

The most appalling example of a firm commercialising childhood to date – Ralph Lauren’s storybook featuring children dressed in its expensive clothing. Another reason why I’m glad I’m not and willl never be a parent.

The text below is taken from ‘The Week’

As if the commercialisation of childhood wasn’t bad enough – here comes a new horror – the first ever shoppable children’s storybook. Produced by Ralph Lauren, The RL Gang: A Magically Magnificent School Adventure is a 32-page volume aimed at pre-school children. It follows the adventures of eight ‘impossibly cute’ classmates with namesl like Wilow, Hudson and River, all dressed in the retailer’s Polo range. In the online video version you can take time out to look in ‘Oliver’s closet’ and buy his Fair Isle cashmere sweater ($75) or Nantucket red chino shorts ($29.95). It’s billed as an innovative way for parents and children to explore style, literature and digital technology together. The truth, of course, is that it’s just an attempt to use children’s natural love of stories to make profit for RL. Lets hope conusmers reject this aweful attempt by RL to colonise their lifeworlds – that would truley be a happy ending.


Incidentally, the online version is narrated by Uma Thurman – the fact that she claims to be a Buddhist and yet makes cash out of something that encourages parents and children to consume shit they don’t need together just goes to show how totally out of touch with reality celebrities are.

Posted in Childhood, Family | No Comments »

Toxic Childhood

Posted by Realsociology on 20th October 2010

You may remember watching this video in class – with that psychopathic woman with the disturbing resemblence to Bruce Forsythe -


I used this to illustrate the Marxist view that ‘the family is a unit of consumption’ – What I didn’t mention is that it also serves as a good example of the ‘Toxic Childhood’ arguement – the idea that modern social changes are harmful to children.

Along the same lines, but in much more depth this is an interesting video from the institute of ideas that is relevant to the ‘toxic childhood’ debate.

The format is basically this – 2 people argue that we live in an age of ‘Toxic Childhood’ and secondly two people, one of whom is Niel Davenport, who writes for spiked (the same place I got that Frank Furedi article on ‘adultesence’ from) criticise thier points of view and ask them questions…

sleepykinsThe general gist seems to be that the first two have done lots of research into toxic childhood and make informed points backed up with evidence while the later two critics wave wafty overly intellectual and largely insubstantial statements at them to criticise them.

The Toxic Childhood camp wins the day in my view!

The video is divided into chapters and the best sections are the first few -

In the first section Agnes Nairn points out that whether we think advertising to children is acceptable depends on the way we view children – if you think children are in the process of becoming adults you will probably think they need protecting from advertising; if you think children are ‘beings who are already like adults’ then you will think advertising to them is fine.

In the second section she argues that children, and even teenagers (even 15 year olds) are emotionally immature, suffer higher levels of insecurity and lack the cognitive ability to realise they are being manipulated – and on this level advertising is wrong.

The next few sections talk about the reach of internet advertising – very much building on what the corporation DVD at the top of this post is talking about.

It goes on from there – with questions at the end!

Posted in Childhood, Family | No Comments »

Sociology on TV – Beckii: Schoolgirl Superstar at 14

Posted by Realsociology on 13th August 2010

I though this was relevant to ‘the social construction of childhood’

Beckii: Schoolgirl Superstar at 14  (aired August 2010) follows a 14 Yyr old girl from the UK who is in the process of becoming a superstar in Japan – for doing this -


Note how I picked the boarder to match her outfit. Gok would be proud I am sure.

51ge8Uwv87L__SS500_It turns out that she has a particular look that relates to Japanese anime . You see this look all the time in Japanese films such as ‘spirited away’ – (An excellent, if odd, movie, which gets a 5* review on amazon – which is well deserved! (1600 reviews)

Now I’m sure in Japan this phenomenon of young girls dressing up in skirts, make up and ribbons is all just cutsie cutsie and innocent – but of course this being Britain the issue of the demographic of viewers on youtube came up – the biggest age group for females was her age range, but for men it was the 40 to 50 somethings. The question arose, why do 40 year old men watch 14 year old girls dancing on the internet – and the programme was staight into the paedophile issue… something which isn’t even discussed in Japan, this simply isn’t seen as an issue.  Now I imagine that just as many 40 year old men watch Beckii in Japan as in the UK – So my question is this -Why is it seen as acceptable for 40 year old men to watch Beckii in Japan, but viewed with suspicion in the UK?

On the methods front, you might like to see if you can find something by Dan Garder – he wrote something on the problem of counting paedophiles in a recent book called ‘Risk’.

Finally, it seams that we have here a 14 year old girl who has got famous by ‘getting lucky’ – she’s found a genre she likes, done some dancing, and been picked up by an agent – and fitted in to a particular subcultural style.  Perhaps her appeal stems from the fact that she is real? This suggests there is a chance that ‘I could be her too’ . What I personally like about Beckii is the fact that she seams to be her own person amidst the fame, she’s not a ‘desperate wannabe’ like some Big Brother types.  

I also thought this discussion thread on facebook sounded quite sociological - the entries, however, show no sociological imagination whatsoever…. I’m sure you could add something more sociological in.

Interestingly, the producer says of her mature attitude and utter ‘normality’ - ’her group of very lovely close friends at home always serve to make her feel normal, and rather than resent that she thoroughly embraces it, perhaps sub-consciously knowing that in the tough world of showbiz, she needs to hold on to something real and honest to keep her grounded. ‘

If you watched the programme, you might remember an odd moment in which a Japanese fan sent her a box containing about 20 packets of Japanese Noodles. If  I were to send her a present it would be a copy of this – although this might lead to Beckii giving up her life of dancing and become a Feminist activist…

Posted in Childhood | No Comments »