The spirit of childhood could become the next item on the world’s endangered list, according to a report released by OREO, a popular American cookie brand, and YouGov. The report indicated that in the UAE and across the GCC the chance for children and adults alike to enjoy simple, carefree moments is dwindling year by year.
The report also revealed that the vast majority of parents surveyed believe that children are growing up faster than previous generations. A staggering seven parents out of 10 from GCC region feel their children should have more time to ‘just be kids.’ The research findings confirm results reached earlier in other parts of the world based on similar research conducted by Ipsos Media.
The “Global Spirit of Childhood Report,” conducted by YouGov in the region on behalf of OREO, measured the spirit of childhood around the world in an effort to understand if people, both young and old, take time to experience the simple joys of being a kid.
“As we regularly talk with consumers worldwide, we consistently hear about the importance of experiencing the carefree feelings of childhood at any age,” said Sheeba Philip, Global Brand Director for OREO. “We believe this sentiment is more important now than ever before, so we conducted this research to learn more about the spirit of childhood worldwide.”
Young at heart
The declining of the spirit of childhood is true not only for kids, but also for adults. Majority of the UAE parents (67%) say they don’t have fun on a daily basis and 62% say they rarely experience the feeling of delight they used to when they were children.
“It’s a nostalgic experience” Shauna Simmons, a mother and an anthropologist, told Arabian Gazette. “For many of us, our childhood was the best time of our lives. There were no responsibilities, no worries, just care free fun. However, as we get older, society dictates that we act and behave responsibly, thus behaving like an adult. Unfortunately, we think that behaving like an adult means we become more serious and have less fun, sometimes no fun at all. This kind of mental attitude has resulted in numerous diseases which we are on the rise, ranging from diabetes to high blood pressure.”
“Frank Sinatra said it best!” Rosemary Ann Joseph, a grandmother and an entrepreneur, told Arabian Gazette. “Fairy Tales can come true, it can happen to you, if you are young at heart. As adults we stop believing in fairy tales, the concept that anything can happen if you simply believe. I have seen my children striving hard to achieve a particular level of success but did not stop to smell the flowers on the way. Now I see my grandchildren being whisked from one place to the other on the pretence of “extracurricular” activities. In my days running through a corn field was extracurricular enough!”
Weight in gold
The report states that carefree fun has become such a rare treat for parents and children that it’s worth more than gold. More than half of parents surveyed (57%) said they would trade part of their salary in exchange for more time with their kids. And 84% of parents surveyed across the UAE said having fun as a family is “more important than anything else.”
Three out of five parents (55%) believe spending time having fun with their kids is more important to them than it was to their own parents when they were growing up.
“Parents who enjoy having fun with their children feel more loved and less stressed,” psychiatrist Fathima Shameem told Arabian Gazette. “When parents are spending time with their children, they can simply be themselves; there is no pretence of anything. Thus they feel free! However it should be noted that some parents feel that the world will accept their carefree behaviour only if they are in the company of children.“
Despite this overwhelming desire, 67% of adults are not spending moments of carefree fun on a daily basis.
Being a kid
The concept of being a kid baffles many people. “Adults feel that a child is a child only by their age, but this is farthest from the truth,” Mary Allen, a second grade school teacher in Dubai, told Arabian Gazette. “Children nowadays are far more mature for their age. I have been teaching for the past 10 years and each generation of children is not only more intelligent than the previous but somehow seem to lack a tiny bit of innocence as well. Parents who seem to have a desire to spend time with children somehow get side tracked.”
Technology: A Double-Edged Sword
Where does the blame lie? The Oreo report points the fingers at technology.
Technology and social media are having an increasingly dramatic impact on the dynamics of family life. Around 68% of parents around the globe agree that technology helps their family stay connected, while admitting it comes at a cost.
Whilst spending time as a family, more that 55% parents said their families were distracted by technology.
Technology has become a part of everyday life for children. Either it is an iPad, iPhone or a simple mobile phone, the presence of technology influences how they spend time with their parents and families. Around one third parents in the UAE (33%) said they communicate more with their children through technology than in-person.
As a mother of a boisterous three year old, there are times I feel that technology has become a savior. I am able to get some well-deserved ‘ME TIME’ by hooking my daughter to technology of her preference. However, there are parents who seem to have a great “US TIME” in the future, by simply letting their children play with them, whilst in the middle of ME TIME.
Hope in the horizon
Not all of the OREO report is gloom and doom. Despite the pressures and distractions, there is hope as the findings suggest 83% parents believe they’re committed to making sure their kids do not miss out on childhood and a whopping 76% say they themselves want to be more carefree like their children.
“Across continents and cultures, one thing we have in common is the desire to celebrate the kid inside all of us. 2012 marks the 100th birthday of OREO. In recognition, we’ll be finding more ways to celebrate the spirit of childhood and make special, simple moments happen for families and OREO fans around the world,” said Philip.
The survey was conducted during a two-week period in February 2012. More than 800 parents with children under the age of 18 participated in this study. Local surveys were conducted via online interviews in five countries, including KSA, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait.