When their parents were children, they imagined a future standing in front of a class of pupils or doing the rounds as a doctor. But today’s youngsters seem to have set their sights only on being the next Leona Lewis or Wayne Rooney. According to a survey, they dream of a celebrity lifestyle, perhaps after finding fame through shows such as the X Factor, and of being actors or sports stars.
It found that emulating the likes of Rooney and David Beckham was the top career ambition of today’s pre-teens, cited by 12 per cent. Almost as many, 11 per cent, want to be pop stars, and the same proportion dream of being actors. The success of celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay is likely to explain why becoming a chef is now the dream of 5 per cent, having not figured in the list of 25 years ago.
A quarter of a century ago teaching was the top career choice, cited by 15 per cent.
These days the profession is chosen by only 4 per cent. Banking and finance was also popular 25 years ago but, following the credit crunch, the sector did not even make the top ten today. Of the traditional professions, only law has risen in popularity.
Becoming a beautician or hairdresser has fallen out of favour, but becoming a vet has stood the test of time. Many parents blame the seismic shift in ambitions on TV, with some saying it is rivalling their advice as the biggest influence on their children’s choice of career. Researchers questioned 3,000 parents about the ambitions of their children, who were aged five to 11, and their own career hopes when they were young. The survey also uncovered a gender divide, with more girls dreaming of becoming doctors and boys wanting careers as astronauts or firemen.
It found that parents still favour the traditional professions for their children, putting law as their first choice followed by medicine and being a self-employed entrepreneur. But they tended to prioritise job satisfaction above wealth, with 53 per cent saying their child’s happiness was important compared to 21 per cent who mentioned money.
Child psychologist Laverne Antrobus said the findings reflected today’s celebrity culture and cautioned children against unrealistic dreams. ‘Children see footballers, pop stars and actors on TV and their lives look exciting, glamorous and fun,’ she said. 'It is hard for them to realise that they are the end product of a lot of ingredients including talent and hard work. Wayne Rooney is not on the pitch at Old Trafford by chance. 'He has incredible talent, determination and has put in years of hard work. There is absolutely nothing wrong with children having big dreams but these have to be based on reality.
‘Parents can think about why they did not achieve their own dreams to help their children to realise their talents.’
The survey was commissioned to mark the launch of Tarrant Lets the Kids Loose on Sky TV channel Watch.