A second set of criticisms of the March of Progress View and The Child Centred Society is that children’s lives are now too controlled, that children have too little freedom, and that children are effectively oppressed by adults.
Conflict theories argue that many laws introduced in the name of ‘child protection’ are really about the oppression and control of children. Dianna Gittins uses the term ‘Age Patriarchy’ to refer to adult domination over children. Adult control over children takes a number of forms –
Control over resources – Labour laws and compulsory schooling make children financially dependent on adults. Shulamith Firestone sees protection from paid work as forcibly segregating children, making them powerless and dependent.
– Control over children’s space – There has been an increase in surveillance of children in public spaces. Take school as an example – Children are monitored more than ever through electronic registration systems, constant testing and nearly every school in the UK has surveillance cameras, with up to 10% of them having them in the toilets. Children are even more controlled in terms of their journey to and from school – In 1971 80% of 7-8 year olds when to school on their own, this had reduced to 10% by 1990.
– Control over children’s time – Parents restricts children through daily and weekly routines. Children today are given less time to themselves, with parents scheduling in more activities for them to do in evenings and weekends.
– Control over children’s bodies – Parents control how children dress and how they interact physically with other children and over their own bodies (don’t pick your nose, don’t slouch etc.).
– Evidence that children childhood as oppressive comes from the strategies they use to resist the status of child and the strategies that go with it. Two of these strategies are ‘acting up’ and ‘acting down’. Acting up is where a child acts older than they are in order to rebel. Acting down is where a child acts younger than they are as an act of rebellion.