Children becoming teens `at age of 10'

GENERATION X, one of the most written and talked about social groups of the Nineties, is fading rapidly into obscurity. The future belongs to Generation O.

The emergence of Generation O youngsters - O for optimistic and opportunistic - is revealed in research that aims to cast light on some of the most misunderstood creatures of the late 20th century: children.

The study, by the advertising agency McCann-Erickson, reveals that, as family units fracture and state institutions decline, children are growing up younger. Enfranchised by information technology, they are more independent and sophisticated than their predecessors and more confident about what they can achieve.

Access to information, cultural conditioning through the media and the received wisdom of the playground are the driving forces behind the new generation. As their busy (and increasingly single) - parents spend less time with them, so television, the Internet, magazines and peers are becoming more significant influences.

Researchers estimate that about 60 per cent of children have televisions in their bedrooms, while 43 per cent have access to a computer in the home. The idea of a family sitting down to eat together, the research suggests, is redundant. "At best, Sunday lunch now means sitting down with food on a tray to watch the omnibus edition of EastEnders," says Katherine Hannah, a senior planner at the agency.

"There is a fundamentally different consumer out there," says Simon Aboud of Magic Hat, a division of McCann-Erickson devoted to understanding teenagers. "They are smart and sassy, but not at all cynical. They are having to be more grown-up. The idea of the nuclear family does not exist, and higher education is like getting a job, as you have to pay your way now. But with the explosion of access to information, they have finally got their hands on the means of production."

At six years of age, a girl still dreams of being a princess, but by eight she wants to sing and dance like Billie. At 11, she would die for eye contact with Leonardo DiCaprio or, if he's not handy, then Richard Branson will do.

"They genuinely believe they can do whatever they want if they work hard enough at it," says Mr Aboud.

Although the changes are affecting children of all ages, some of the most marked differences are being seen among those aged 10, 11 and 12, the pre-adolescent age group referred to as "tweens". They represent a generation of girls and boys who are less concerned with toys and teddy bears than the fashion and style aspirations of older siblings or role models.

"No 11-year-old wants to be 11," says Mr Aboud. "They want to be older, just like anyone who is 30 wants to be younger. The golden age is somewhere between 20 and 25."

The emergence of tweens has already been noted with alarm in the United States, where some commentators have talked about the death of childhood as 10-year-old girls are shopping for cosmetics, miniskirts and designer sunglasses. Kay Hymowitz, author of a book on tweens to be published next year, says: "It's a disturbing trend. Parental absence, the market and the peer group form a vicious circle that works to distort the development of youngsters."

McCann's research reveals similar brand sophistication among the 10- 12 age-group in Britain. While children as young as seven are aware of Nike and Adidas, tweens understand and act on the credibility ratings of the sub-brands - that a pair of Nike Air Max is far more leading-edge than the old-school, low-tech Cortez. They insist on Gap or Top Shop or CK originals rather than Marks & Spencer imitations. With parents less able to police their viewing, they watch horror movies such as Scream and other post-watershed fare, including South Park.

The girls swoon over Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic was a massive hit among this age group). The boys - like boys of every age - admire footballers, but in the group research they will spell out very specific reasons for whom they rate: the Italian international striker Alessandro Del Piero for his skill, the Arsenal captain Tony Adams for his reliability and leadership.

"They have a meritocratic attitude about whom they admire," says Ms Hannah. "That's why sportsmen and women are rated highly. A lot of their heroes are self-made. Even the Spice Girls are like that - what they like about the Spice Girls is that they are all pretty ordinary girls, not that beautiful, but they have a laugh, make money and have been a huge success, and now they manage themselves.

"Richard Branson is also mentioned by 10 and 11-year-olds because he generally succeeds in getting what he wants."

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO YESTERDAY'S YOUTH?

Who

were

they?

The Baby Boomer

Generation

The teenagers of the Sixties and Seventies who take the credit for everything, from teenage rebellion, the sexual revolution to ending the Vietnam War. They are less keen to take credit for bad hair cuts and progressive rock.

The Punk

Generation

Rising unemployment in the late Seventies and early Eighties created a generation of disaffected youths. However most of The Clash went to public school and a lot of the glue-sniffing took place in the nice middle- class suburbs.

Generation X

Twentysomethings during the early Nineties recession seemed like the first post-war generation unlikely to do better than their parents. They had McJobs rather than careers, partly because they looked like Kurt Cobain.

Generation Y

So boring that they are the people best known as the generation after Generation X. This gang of would-be over-achievers took soft drugs, worked very hard to get into university and practised serial monogamy.

The Chemical

Generation

The people who took every drug that they could find and then found themselves in an Irvine Welsh short story. Usually characterised by dilated pupils, baggy clothes and the ability to dance for 12 hours straight.

Where

are they now?

The Baby Boomer

Generation

Most famously, The White House and 10 Downing Street. Others can be found attending Relate, mid-life crisis counsellors, plastic surgery clinics and Harley Street doctors selling Viagra.

The Punk

Generation

Many seem to be columnists on national newspapers or appear on BBC2's Late Review. Others are to be found shopping in Waitrose. They are marketing directors with their own Renault Espaces.

Generation X

Working in Waitrose. Living with their parents. Trying to stop doing Teaching-English-as-a-Foreign Language (that is, TEFL) jobs and get back to Britain. Working in public relations.

Generation Y

Millbank. Demos. Parliamentary lobbying companies. Smug bars in Notting Hill and Islington - although they actually live in either Ladbroke Grove or Dalston.

The Chemical Generation

Those not terminally depressed by low seratonin - caused by too much Ecstasy - are buying Versace and Donna Karan and going to expensive clubs in between buying Red magazine and going to garden centres.

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Travel
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week