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Home > Culture and Society

The NSPCC: The kids aren't alright

22 March 2005

The NSPCC recently ran an extensive campaign to try to stop parents hitting children - you may have seen the rather terrifying adverts. Underpinning the campaign was extensive research, which found, among other things, that one in six parents of babies and toddlers lose their temper with their child almost every other day, and many admitted to 'over-reacting', ie. twatting the little bleeders.

That using violence against children is A Bad Thing is a fairly uncontroversial idea. It's probably fair to say that most people aren't totally opposed to hitting/smacking, and take the view that the occasional smack isn't going to turn little Billy into the next Michael Ryan, but any normal person recognises that more extreme physical attacks on children are wrong.

However, there's an interesting corollary to the smacking debate - a backlash taking place against organisations like the NSPCC, with criticism from people like 'Angry Harry', whose views on the NSPCC can be found here.

Harry notes: 'The personal view of many people, including myself, is that the antics of the NSPCC and Saatchi and Saatchi [who made the advert] have very severely damaged the emotional well-being of victims of abuse, they have infected the country with hostility, suspicion, hysteria and hatred and they have horribly demonised men and fathers in the eyes of all.'

'Angry Harry' unquestionably has some 'issues'. Possibly mental health issues. His chosen moniker alone screams 'green ink nutter'. Unsurprisingly, Harry is a supporter of Fathers 4 Justice, and a browse of his website suggests he is the archetypal tin pot paranoid, massively overstating his case on most issues.

However, critics of the NSPCC may have a slight point. Not that hitting kids is OK (which, to be fair, isn't exactly what they're arguing) but that organisations overstate the problems they're dealing with.

The NSPCC adverts have been criticised for being too violent, and promoting the idea that we're a nation of child abusers and batterers. Is this really true? Probably not.

The NSPCC also recently produced research that found high levels of 'depression' among children and teenagers. Among the things that kiddies worried about were exams and not having a boyfriend/girlfriend.

It's pretty hard to consider these particular examples as anything other than ordinary teenage angst. Very few children lead lives that come out of Ladybird books or Enid Blyton novels, and few teenagers lead the event-filled lifestyle portrayed in Hollyoaks. One psychiatrist has even said that childhood depression is more often just 'normal' unhappiness. In short, by labelling normal problems as mental illness you create a problem that doesn't really exist.

But despite all this, what has been hinted at by various surveys, is that even if youngsters aren't depressed in a clinical sense, rather a lot seem to be leading unhappy lives. Perhaps it's time for the NSPCC to launch a less extreme campaign pointing out that for many kids, life just ain't that much fun.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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