As I browsed news stories this past week, I noticed a recurring theme. The winner of the 2011 Miss America Pageant is a 17-year-old model. The most popular free iPhone game available, Bubble Ball, was developed by a 14-year-old mastermind. A 15-year-old child prodigy completed a surgery in Delhi, India.
The greatest of accomplishments are being made by those who are of a very, very young age.
It is wonderful to see that age is no longer a factor when planning goals; even the youngest children can outcompete those with greater life experience. However, terms such as “child prodigy” do not seem to have the same meaning as before.
A child prodigy is no longer someone who defies the expected at such a young age, because it is happening frequently. I can’t help but wonder if these changes are healthy encouragement for those watching.
The media influence many decisions made on a daily basis. This applies not only to the products and services we buy, but the way we dress, act and plan our lives. Children are especially affected by this, and the influx in young people achieving great things is encouraging children to do the same.
Although I do believe this encouragement could be beneficial — students might feel the need to study more, work harder, etc. — I do think that this could quickly turn for the worse as well.
As discussed on timesonline.co.uk, a 4-year-old child in India attempted to run a 43-mile marathon in 2006 to try to set a record. When stopped by doctors, it was found that the child “showed signs of exhaustion after 40 miles and later (was) found to be malnourished, anemic and under cardiac stress.”
If a child at the extremely young age of 4 is able to feel pressured to create new records, young adults and teenagers must also be feeling the same. As a college student, I know I sometimes feel urged to get the best grades and into medical school as soon as possible.
However, I have grown up knowing to travel at my own pace, and am therefore able to do so. Those still growing up and learning need to be taught the same. We cannot expect them to learn this on their own with the media influence in today’s society. It is a life lesson that should be passed on through generations.
The many magnificent accomplishments made by the younger generations should be acknowledged and marveled, but children should be reminded that they are not expected to meet — or surpass — these individuals. If it happens, then fantastic. If not, there are many other goals one can aim to fulfill.