Childhood in the 21st century – still a happy time of life

boy14yearsDo children born in the UK at the beginning of the new millennium have some reasons to be cheerful? Yes, it appears that they do.

Some international studies have suggested that the nation’s children have a lower quality of life than their peers in other developed countries. However, most 11-year-olds seem very happy with their lives. And they are even happier with their families, even though many families have been through hard times.

Around half (52%) of all children rate themselves ‘completely happy’ while three quarters (75%) are completely happy with their families, according to researchers at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, which manages the Child of the New Century study. Few children say that they are ‘very unhappy’ with either their families or their own life.

More than 80 per cent of the ‘children of the new century’ also enjoy going to school, it seems.
The 13,000 children who took part in the Age 11 Survey of Child of the New Century were about to enter secondary education. Just over half (52%) said that they were completely happy at school. Only one in ten children reported that they did not like school.

Other interesting facts about 21st century childhoods

Bullying: Bullying was a problem for many 11-year-olds who were born in the UK between 2000 and 2002. Three quarters per cent of children with siblings said they had been bullied by a brother or sister and 58 per cent of all children said they had been picked on by other children.

Friendships: Most Children of the New Century had a good mix of friends. Over half of them had both boys and girls as friends and over 70 per cent had friends from different ethnic groups.

Independent journeys: Very few children had used public transport on their own (4%) while almost half (48%) had never even travelled on public transport with an adult. “Our survey underlines the ever-greater reliance on the family car,” the researchers say. Boys were more likely than girls to travel on their own on a bike or on foot.

Feeling safe: The vast majority of children (89%) felt ‘safe’ or ‘very safe’ in their home neighbourhood. Just 9 per cent said it was ‘not very safe’ and 1 per cent thought it was ‘not at all safe’.

Computers: Almost all Children of the New Century (95%) had access to a home computer linked to the internet (up from 81% at age 7 – the last time they were interviewed). Seventeen per cent of children said they spent three or more hours watching TV or a video on a computer on a weekday, while 3 per cent spent seven or more hours. About 4 in 10 (46% of girls and 39% of boys) had their own computer.

Most parents had rules about the time their child could spend on the computer and what they could watch on it.

Mobile phones: Nearly three quarters (72%) of the children had their own mobile phone at age 11 (up from 15 per cent at age 7). More than a third (37%) of those with a mobile could use it to access the internet. More girls (77%) than boys (67%) had their own phone, as was the case at age 7.

TVs in bedrooms: Children of the New Century were also more likely to have a TV in their bedroom at age 11 (60%) than at age 7 (45%). More boys than girls had one at age 11, but the opposite was true at age 7.

Social media: More than one in four girls and almost one in five boys exchanged messages with friends via the internet on most days. However, nearly half of boys and a third of girls never messaged friends.