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Childhood in crisis?

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This free course, Childhood in crisis?, explores an idea much repeated in minority-world media that childhood is in crisis. Looking at this idea is a starting point for the study of childhood. You will consider the concept of childhood and the ways in which the notion of crisis may shape how children in the West are seen. By completing the activities, you will be introduced to different ways of understanding this idea and also asked to consider your own feelings in relation to it.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • explore the concept of childhood and some of the ways minority-world childhood is characterised as ‘in crisis’
  • develop ideas on how childhood may be constructed
  • develop an awareness of the ways in which the notion of crisis may have practical consequences for children’s lives, identities and experiences.

By: The Open University

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Childhood in crisis?


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What does it mean to be a child in today’s world? Studying childhood involves a consideration of the discourses that shape our ideas of what childhood is as well as looking at the reality of children’s lives. Media representations, children’s status in the home, educational provision, healthcare and education have a bearing on of the experience of childhood and how we think about children’s needs. Further understanding can be gleaned by focusing on children themselves. Children’s cultural worlds provide insights into how children make sense of the context of their lives; how modern lifestyles and technologies can be accommodated by children through play and peer relations. A feature of contemporary minority-world childhood is the commonly held notion that childhood is in crisis. The following sections explore this idea through activities and textual commentary.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course E212 Childhood [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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