Protecting the minds of our children
by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC
Two weeks ago I stayed with my cousin Helen in beautiful Tasmania, Australia. All around the walls of her home were huge framed photographs of breathtaking landscapes, incredible bird life and spectacular sunrises. All of these photographs were taken by Helen’s husband David Jamroznik.
Images capture scenery, family, events and exciting adventures that we experience and these ‘moments in time’ create memories down through the centuries. Wow!
Our brains are like a huge hard drive that stores our visual images. It also turns the things we hear, such as stories we read, into visual images. It would be wonderful if our brains were stocked full of positive images. Unfortunately, life is not like that. We see and hear things that are sad, stressful and make us feel afraid. I can remember as a very small child, hearing on the radio about war in Chile. I had no idea where Chile was, what the fighting was about or whether I was in any personal danger. I just recall being very frightened. Until I was assured there was no fighting anywhere near the bottom of the world where I lived, I could not calm down, and I still remember it to this day.
Negative memories do not automatically go in the trash or spam file in our brain. For that reason we need to protect our kids' minds from unnecessary negative and/or traumatic input.
I imagine my brain as a blank canvas. What goes onto the canvas stays there. No matter how hard I try to paint over negative input, it will not go away. Our kids' minds are the same.
As parents, we need to be our kids’ 'mind guardians' when it comes to the images they store. Consider this research statement:
“Over the past 30 years there has been extensive research on the relationship between televised violence and violent behavior among youth. Longitudinal, cross-sectional, and experimental studies have all confirmed this correlation…… In one recent study it was demonstrated that 15% of music videos contain interpersonal violence.” Eugene V Beresin, M.D.
Here are some suggestions when it comes to managing media input.
a) Carefully monitor what they are watching intentionally or unintentionally
on TV. The evening news, for example, can even be scary.
b) Vet the movies, video games and music videos they watch and play. Violent
cartoons and video games have become the norm and we do not know how
they are affecting our kids. Yelling, “I am going to kill you,” as they play
imaginary combative games may be tossed aside as 'normal' play, but in my
opinion, it is disturbing.
c) Watch for the ‘fear factor’ in children. If they seem to be afraid, encourage
them to talk about it. Don’t dismiss their fears as ‘silly’ or think they will just
grow out of it. Not all kids want to be scared out of their wits by spooky stories
at Halloween or at any other time. Inciting fear is not a game.
My husband just related that a parent at the school he works at let their eight-year-old child watch ’12 Years a Slave’. My husband saw that movie two weeks ago and said it was an R-rated movie because of violence, nudity and sexual content. It was certainly not a movie for a child to watch. How brainless can some parents be?
There is a great Bible verse that explains the importance of feeding positive rather than negative images into our children's minds.
Philippians, Chapter 4, Verse 8 says:
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”
Our thoughts are strongly influenced by our stored images. If these images are positive (as the verse above suggests) then we will automatically endorse the value of respect, care and love for one another rather than be encumbered by negative junk that we can't forget.
If you have any comments or questions on this subject, please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For product and other information check out our website at www.forefrontfamilies.org and our blog site at www.forefrontfamilies.blogspot.com
Reference: ‘The Impact of Media Violence on Children and Adolescents: Opportunities for Clinical Interventions.’
Eugene V Beresin, M.D. Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Training Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital.