Dear site user:
This Element on the effects of the media on our human biology is rather long and somewhat detailed. The reason for this is that, in our opinion, society needs a firm scientific understanding of how the media is influencing our own and our children’s thoughts and behaviors, before we can take appropriate action. Without a scientific grasp of the media’s profound effect on our genes and neurological structures, we will have difficulty connecting today’s high rates of depression, ADHD, impulsivity, sleeplessness, unacceptable sexual activity, and violence to the correct causes.
Danger! When the Media Becomes the Environment.
“I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.”
A fourth-grader in San Diego. Reported in Last Child In The Woods,
Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv
From an evolutionary biological perspective we are becoming a generation of guinea pigs! Why? Because from the time that life first appeared in the primordial ooze, over 3.5 billion years ago, until the young Marconi first began experimenting with the transmission of radio waves in 1894, the nervous systems of organisms had received no stimulation at all via electronic media. Then in one of the most rapid and shocking environmental changes ever experienced by the nervous system of any species, the human brain went from receiving less than 1 percent of its stimulation from electronic media via radio in the early 1900s to receiving between 25 and 40 percent of its stimulation via TV and computers in the 21st century.
Over the last hundred years the amount of electronic stimulation the brain is bombarded with each day has become extraordinary. Consider that the average adult is in front of a TV or a computer for approximately five hours a day and our children sit in front of a media screen approximately seven hours a day. It may sound unbelievable, but what this means is that, for the first time in the history of life on earth, a species will have almost as much environmental stimuli directed to its nervous system from electronic media as it does from the real world!
To help put into perspective the force of this rapid environmental change on human biology, consider that, from a historical and biological viewpoint, most of the environmental changes that life forms have successfully adapted to have been extremely slow and steady. Organisms had over 2 billion years to adapt to the atmosphere, which gradually went from 0 to 21 percent oxygen. Our ancestors had from thousands to millions of years to adapt to gradual climate changes, like the ice ages. To have the nervous system of a species go from receiving no stimulation at all from one source to 40 percent stimulation in a little over a century is unprecedented.
The Impact of the Media on Behavior
Not only has the human brain and nervous system experienced a dramatic shift from receiving all of its stimuli from natural sources to receiving up to 40 percent and more from electronic sources, but the content in this electronic stimulation is having powerful ramifications for our emotions and behaviors.
All of us, including our children, have experienced increasing amounts of exposure to sex and violence every day. There is an Indian saying, “Sarvam-Annam,” which means, “All is food.” It is important to ask ourselves what type of nourishment we are feeding the human brain when producers of media content, in order to keep our minds “tuned in,” have added so much sex and violence to their shows and games that, before a child reaches 18 years of age, his or her young, once innocent mind will have experienced over 250,000 acts of violence and over 140,000 sexual references.
The brain is the most adaptive organ in the body. Its main job is to “fit” the environmental stimuli presented to it (see “The Environment Is Everything to Increasing Your Adaptability/Intelligence Factor“). When an adult or child’s brain is bombarded by large amounts of media sex and violence it must alter its structures in an effort to adapt. (The child’s brain adapts more quickly than the adult brain; see “Windows of Super Learning Opportunity.”) By changing the brain structures in response to media stimuli, our emotions and behaviors are affected.
Consider the impact of large amounts of media exposure on our emotions and behaviors:
- A two-year study by Carnegie Mellon found that the more time you spend surfacing the Internet, the more depressed and lonely you become.
- Research shows that your depression levels actually increase after watching TV.
- The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that more than 60 percent of all students in grades 9 through 12 have engaged in violent behavior.
- Each day over 100,000 children bring weapons to school.
- A survey by Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education found that “For every classroom of 30 students in every school building in America, on average one student has attended school with a gun in grades six through 12.”
- Studies have shown that the dramatic rise in overweight children and adults is directly related to the increased amounts of time we spend in front of the media.
- A study published in 2004 found that, for each hour of TV watched per day by preschoolers, the likelihood that they would develop concentration problems and other symptoms of ADD by age 7 increased by 10 percent.
- In some cities in America, 60 percent of middle school kids have “hooked up,” that is, had oral sex with no emotional involvement.
- A study showed that children who watch the most media at ages 12 to 14 were 220 percent more likely to have sexual intercourse 2 years later.
- According to Rick Shatz, CEO of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families in Cincinnati, “American teenagers lead the industrialized world in sexually transmitted diseases … in unwanted pregnancies and … are more likely to… have multiple partners than any other teenagers on the planet.”
While many variables affect brain development and our resulting behaviors, there is now enough evidence to strongly suggest that, like tobacco use, excessive media use can be detrimental to our well being. There will be those that will try to refute this, but, just as the awareness of the harm that tobacco causes was increased through science, so too does science allow us to comprehend the consequences of the too much exposure to media.
In this Element, future newsletters, and the book Cracking the Learning Code, we will explore the negative consequences that this dramatic media bombardment has on the human brain.
Read on to find out how excess media exposure effects your brain and behaviors
As the Elements, “The Environment Is Everything to Increasing Your Adaptability/Intelligence Factor” and “Windows of Super Learning Opportunity” point out, the environment is all powerful in the process of building and shaping the genetic and neurological structures that are the wellspring
of all your actions and behaviors. With that statement in mind, we must ask ourselves what the effect is on the biology of humans who are now spending huge amounts of their waking hours not interacting with the real world populated by people, trees, mountains, and fields, but instead sitting in front of some sort of media screen?
As a society, we are just beginning to wrestle with what happens to the brain when the media becomes the primary source of environmental stimulus. Since the advent of television in the 1950s, there have been thousands of studies that have linked the effects of the media to everything from a decrease in creativity and social interaction to increases in ADHD, depression, violence, and unacceptable sexual behavior. Our children appear to be at the greatest risk. Studies have shown that excess media usage can dampen empathy, hinder parental bonding, stimulate the neural chemicals that are the basis of addiction, and may even be a factor in the increasing rates of childhood and teen suicides.
Excess media usage is a primary factor in limiting the free physical play that is instrumental in building efficient motor and social programs. The obesity and diabetes epidemic among children has been directly linked to media usage. The American Academy of Pediatrics found that the average young viewer is exposed to 14,000 sexual references each year, yet only a handful of these references provides a portrayal of responsible sexual behavior. Some programs aimed at teens, like those on MTV, Wb and VH1, can have more than 35 sexual references per show in order to keep a child’s brain “tuned in.” The media has also been shown to influence the hormones responsible for inducing sleep and to hinder the important stage of a child’s sleep called REM, which is responsible for dreaming, long-term memory formation, supporting emotional maturation, and the release of human growth hormones. Even children’s cartoons aren’t even safe. To keep kids’ attention, one episode of a cartoon show like Power Rangers can have as many as 68 acts of aggression.
After decades of research on how the brain selects information from the environment, The Advanced Learning Institute takes the position there is no greater polluter to a child’s mind and development than excess media usage. We are not alone. Sixty-six percent of Americans believe that television contributes to violence and erodes family values. Ninety-five percent of parents think it is important to control children’s exposure to the media. Even the media itself believes it has a negative impact. Almost 80 percent of Hollywood executives questioned by mail agreed there is a link between TV and real life violence. In one survey of 10- to 16-year-olds, 62 percent said sex on TV had influenced their peers to have sex at too young an age. In response to our society’s concerns, the American Medical Association House of Delegates passed this resolution: “The House declares TV violence threatens the health and welfare of young Americans.” The American Academy of Pediatrics “urge that parents avoid television viewing for children under 2 years of age.” They also recommend that parents get televisions out of older children’s bedrooms.
The Media Is Shaping Us
We come into the world incomplete; it is the environment we live in which provides the material nature uses to build a complete human being. The brain can only adapt to its environment by selecting the information that is presented to it. When up to 40 percent of a brain’s waking hours are dominated by the media, which is chock full of sex and violence, one can infer that up to 40 percent of your neocortical networks will be filled with this same information. Because our behaviors are driven by the information held in our neural structures, is it any wonder that the media is influencing our behaviors in negative ways?
Isolating variables in a society is a dramatically complex process. There are probably many factors besides the media that can have an effect on human development (there is speculation that hormones in food and milk may prompt the advancement of puberty), but common sense would dictate that being exposed to 250,000 acts of violence and 140,000 sexual scenes in the media before a child reaches his or her 18th year are probably two variables that should be considered in appraising neural development.
How Media Sex Affects the Brain
Our genes are timed to cause neurological growth in specific brain areas at specific times as we age. Bonding, walking, talking in sentences, and understanding abstract concepts are all the results of regulatory genes turning on other genes at the right time to allow these traits to develop (see “Windows of Super Learning Opportunity“). In the not too distant past, scientists believed that you could not advance the time at which developmental genes turned on. But today geneticists believe that, if the environmental stimuli are strong enough and repeated enough, developmental genes can be forced to turn on early (see “The Grave Risks of Too Much Information Too Soon“). The evidence is leading to the conclusion that flooding the young brain with too much sexual stimuli not only advances the genetic clock that allows puberty to develop earlier but also prompts our youth to perform sexual acts sooner. Today, puberty and sexual activity are commencing 20 to 30 percent earlier than they did 50 years ago, and, because of this, children have less time to act and think like children. In effect, the media is stealing their childhood.
How the Media Steals Childhood
The increase of sexual activity of today’s youth and the decrease in age at which puberty starts can be traced to a part of the brain called the pituitary gland, often called the master gland because of its powerful effect on the body’s hormone levels. In addition to other vital hormones, such as the human growth hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone, the pituitary gland produces the sexual luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Hormone in Greek means urge on, and LH and FSH are the hormones which urge us toward sex.
Our bodies and brains adapt to the environment by adjusting their internal chemical climate to fit incoming stimuli. The evidence suggests that, when the brain receives too much sexual stimuli, at too young an age, from MTV, BET, Desperate Housewives, or pornography found on the web, the regulatory genes in the pituitary gland prompt the early release of LH and FSH, causing the onset of puberty and the fixation on the opposite sex that goes with it. Excessive sexual content in the media (one study estimated that the average child views over 30 sexual stimulating scenes a day) is like telling the genes in the pituitary “Hey! Let’s get going, there is a lot of sex in this environment and we need to get ready for it now!” The excess sexual stimuli prompt the early release of LH and FSH, which in turn prompts pubic hair growth, the development of the gonads (sex organs), and the increased production of estrogen and testosterone, which in turn advances menstruation for girls and the first erections for boys. One of the country’s leading researchers on puberty, Dr. Marcia E. Herman-Giddens at the University of North Carolina, says we now know that the media can alter the body’s chemical climate. “Looking at something can increase the amount of sexual hormones in your body,” she says. Anyone young or old who has ever looked at sexually suggestive pictures knows this to be true.
How the Media Inhibits Frontal Lobe Development
Unfortunately for our society, when young minds are being bombarded by sexual stimuli, which are causing hormones to surge and prompting their psychology and physiology to demand sex, the part of the brain designed to control these urges is not fully mature. The brain structure that allows us to weigh the future consequences of our present actions and mediates our base emotional and sexual urges is called the prefrontal cortex. Humans have a huge prefrontal cortex, which is considered the brain structure that separates us most from our less-evolved animal cousins, which must react to environmental stimuli without thinking. Neuroscientists point to the early to mid 20s as the time the prefrontal lobes reach maturation in humans.
Without a mature frontal lobe to regulate sexual urges, 8- to 16-year-olds who have been exposed to large numbers of sexual scenes in the media are running around with their sexual hormones screaming “let’s have sex now.” Media usage filled with sexual images produces children fixated on sex and a society populated with hundreds of thousands of unwed teen mothers and fathers who have engaged in sexual acts but do not have the neurological maturity to know how to be responsible parents.
Obsessing on Sex
Another problem with too much sexual stimuli too soon is that the young mind often obsesses on these images. The prefrontal lobe and the large cortical structure behind it called the cingulate cortex work together to put the brakes on obsessive thinking. Because of the lack of maturation of these structures, after children are exposed to an extremely provocative scene or repeated sexual images, their minds often run out of control, fixating on those images at the expense of other more age-appropriate subjects that the young brain should be focusing upon.
This fixation is supported by the production of dopamine. Evolution has set it up so that any time we engage in activities that add to our personal or species survival, like eating or sex, the dopamine circuits are activated. Dopamine prompts us to get pleasure from and repeat certain behaviors. If overactivated, the dopamine circuits also can cause addiction. While minds at any age are susceptible to becoming addicted to the jolt of dopamine from looking at sexual images or engaging in sex, the young immature mind is much more susceptible because the young brain has 40 percent more dopamine receptors than the adult mind.
Interfering with Windows of Super Learning Opportunity
The thousands and thousands of sexual images that a child perceives before he reaches adulthood is creating hormonal changes that may also interfere with the Windows of Super Learning Opportunity. Because genes are prompting specific brain areas into action at specific times, a child is able to bond with his parents before he connects with his peers and is able to learn concrete concepts before abstract ones. The brain gets 25 watts of power in the form of glucose and oxygen from the carotid and vertebral arteries. When this energy is being diverted to the brain areas that are fixated on sex, at the expense of the developing brain areas that should be receiving this neural energy, we may be retarding the natural development of the child.
As the Elements “Windows of Super Learning Opportunity” and “The Grave Risks of Too Much Information Too Soon” cover, the brain has lots of systems that work independently and when you turn one on, you often turn others off. We are just beginning to understand how early media sexual bombardment interferes with parental bonding, socializing, creativity, and intellectual capacity. Herman-Giddens says, “It is extremely concerning that we have a generation … being exposed to all these factors at once and we don’t know where it’s heading.” She also points out, because of the amount of sex in the media, “The old boundaries have been blurred between childhood and adulthood.” The blending of these boundaries makes it easier for pedophiles to ply their trade on unsuspecting youth.
The Media and Melatonin
New research also indicates that the artificial light from computer and television screens may also be helping to bring on puberty sooner by reducing levels of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that not only helps induce sleep but has been implicated in the onset of puberty. Researchers at Florence University in Italy found that, when children watched media, their melatonin levels decreased by 30 percent. The large decrease is now being looked at as another causal factor in the early onset of puberty.
How Media Violence Affects the Brain
We have not changed biologically in 50,000 years, yet the number and kinds of stimuli we perceive from our “modern” world are far different and far greater than what we were designed for. Media violence is not as benign as many of those in the media would want us to believe. It causes neurological changes, and, as we know, neurological change is what causes behavioral change (see “What Is Learning?“).
The dangers of too much media violence too soon to the developing brain can be best comprehended by grasping the concept of three neurological processes:
- Emergency Response: Also called the stress response, the emergency response is an ancient survival instinct which automatically prepares us to fight or flee when we perceive danger in our environment. Repeated trips to and from the emergency response caused by witnessing media violence can cause dramatic chemical changes in the brain, which can force it to adopt an aggressive and impulsive view of the world.
- Habituation: The reason we become numb to media violence, habituation is the neurological process the brain uses to normalize itself after numerous exposures to violence. Habituation ensures that the brain will stop producing a stress reaction if it no longer perceives certain violent stimuli as worthy of reaction.
- Addiction: This physical and psychological craving develops into a dependency, even though it is causing the addicted person physical, psychological, and social harm. We now have enough scientific evidence to recognize that the neurological changes brought about by watching violent media can activate the brain’s addictive circuits.
The stress response is a complex biological process that dramatically inhibits learning and can cause neurological damage if it goes on too long (see “Stress – the Death of Learning“).
Imagine that you are watching an action movie on TV or playing an action video game. The violent stimuli prompt the pituitary gland to squirt out the hormone ACTH into the bloodstream. When ACTH reaches the adrenal glands, they release the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn prompts the brain to release a cascade of neurochemicals – norepinephrine and dopamine.
This release causes you to become hyper vigilant, as your body tenses, your mouth gets dry, your hands get clammy, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, your pupils dilate, your digestion slows, and your blood flow shifts away from your spleen, liver, kidneys and other internal organs to the major muscle groups so you will have the energy and power necessary in your back, arms, and legs to fight or flee the perceived threat. As the action rises and subsides on the screen, your brain and body are continually jerked in and out of this potent ancient and innate biological reaction designed to help you fight or flee a dangerous stressor.
The average child who is exposed to over four hours of media a day sees over 49 acts of violence a day. Whipping a child’s mind and body in and out of the emergency response hundreds of times per week can adapt brain chemistry so that the child’s stress hormone levels are set permanently high. High cortisol levels create the neurochemical climate that keeps the child on edge and gives him a hair trigger temper.
Excessive media violence and high cortisol levels force the child’s brain to see the world not through peaceful rose-colored glasses but through hostile dark ones and react accordingly. Dr. Linda Mayers at Yale says, if you experience the emergency response “again and again it changes the structure of the brain.” While both children and adults are susceptible to stress-induced brain changes that become permanent, children are more at risk because of the malleable nature of the immature brain. Megan Gunnar at the University of Minnesota notes, “The kids with the high cortisol levels score lowest on inhibitory control. … These kids “have problems in attention regulation and self control.”
Numerous studies show individuals do indeed behave more aggressively after they’ve been watching violent media. One study done at the University of Pennsylvania showed that children who watched violent media were more likely to strike out at playmates, argue, and disobey authority and were less willing to wait for things than those children who watched nonviolent programs. In another study, conducted by Leonard Eron, Ph.D., and his associates at the University of Illinois, it was found that children who watched long hours of media violence when they were in elementary school tended to show a higher degree of aggressive behavior when they became teenagers. By observing these young people until they were 30 years old, Eron found that those who had watched a lot of media when they were young were more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for criminal acts as adults.
Emergency Response Causes the Brain to “Downshift”
Many experts suggest that the reason that children and teenagers can perform such inhuman acts like the Columbine school massacre or drive-by shootings is that a violent media helps keeps their brains flooded with the stress hormone cortisol, which limits access to the upper brain centers where system thinking, future planning, empathy, compassion, cooperation, and the other evolved traits that make us most human take place. Without access to these brain centers, their neural processing is dominated by the lower reptilian and mammalian brain centers, where less-evolved, instinctual responses such as fighting, fleeing, deceiving, hoarding, and protecting territory reside. Because these young people don’t have access to their most-evolved human brain centers, guns, knives, and homemade bombs look like perfectly acceptable solutions to their problems. When we allow a young brain’s networks to be marinated in media violence, can we not expect that a large number of our youthful population will act without compassion and empathy?
Normalization of Violence: Habituation
Having the media continually jerk the brain in and out of emergency responses may be bad but what may be even worse is when the brain habituates to violence, eventually perceiving it as normal. The scientific explanation of habituation is the loss of sensitivity on the part of a neuron resulting from a prolonged pattern of stimulation. The brain is designed to react to novel stimuli like violence, but once new stimuli become routine, the brain uses habituation to quell its reaction.
Without habituation, the brain would give equal value to all incoming stimuli. This would make us unclear about what is new and should be paid attention to and what we should accept as normal and produce no reaction. Research shows that, even from birth, an infant will show a waning of response to an event that is repeated. Wild birds, squirrels, and deer can be trained to eat out of human hands because of the process of habituation. After repeated exposure to humans, these wild animals’ brains stop perceiving humans as threats. Habituation occurs when a neuron actually reduces the number of receptors on its surface that would normally responded to a specific stimuli.
Two Negative Effects of Habituation to Media Violence
First, habituation to violence tricks the brain. Two hundred and fifty thousand violent images before a child is 18 can fool the brain into accepting violence as a normal course of life. Second, once society’s collective mind becomes normalized to one level of media violence, media producers and directors must increase the level of bloodshed and gore to keep our attention. In Owners Manual for the Brain, Pierce Howard notes that habituation is maintained as long as the level of stimulation remains constant. Habituation can be broken and novelty and attention rekindled only if the quality and quantity of the stimulus are changed. One way media producers keep viewers coming back is to dramatically raise the levels of carnage.
Because of habituation to keep us “tuned in,” once our brain has normalized to one level of media violence, producers must increase the levels to ensure that we will stay tuned. This turns into a never ending escalating spiral of graphic violence, to which our brains continually normalize. In the last 50 years, each decade has seen an increase in blood and gore on TV, in the movies, and video games. While this is an easy way to get people to pay attention, unfortunately, it also causes us to keep habituating to these increasingly explicit scenes of bloodshed.
In the 1950s and 60s, it was rare to ever see blood on the screen. The most violent shows of the day, like Hoppalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, and Gunsmoke, had very little violence. Today it is rare to see any action-oriented TV show, movie, or video game that does not include copious amounts of graphic blood and gore. To get our attention, video games like Doom routinely allow us to manipulate the mouse to lop off the heads and arms of adversaries in an explosion of guts and bodily fluids. Writing about habituation, Pierce says, “Violence on television produces violent behavior in young people. Everyone knows that. Once one has habituated to violence as a way of life, however, everything else is boring.” Habituation is how the media helps create children and teens who have become numb to violence and gore.
This discussion of the habituation process also can be applied to media sex, It is why Madonna must kiss Brittney Spears on an award show in order to get our attention.
Addicted to Media Violence
As mentioned earlier, addiction is defined as physical and psychological craving that develops into a dependency and continues even though it is causing the addicted person physical, psychological and social harm. The emergency response caused by watching violent media activates the dopamine and endorphin neurochemical systems, which help provide the chemical bases for addiction. Dopamine is important because it is the neurotransmitter that keeps our attention riveted to events we deem as meaningful, but its release also has the ability to numb our pain.
Dopamine numbs our pain by helping to prompt and prolong the effect of the brain’s natural morphine, the neuropeptide endorphin. Nature saw that in dangerous situations it would be a good idea if our brain released neurochemicals which not only keep us hyper-vigilant so we could effectively focus on treating stimuli but also numbed our pain so that we could continue to fight or flee if we were hurt by those same stimuli. But in the absence of pain, the brain perceives the numbing effect of endorphins as pleasurable. In the end the brain likes the buzz that these two neurochemicals give us. The reason drugs are so addictive is because they stimulate both dopamine and endorphins.
In witnessing up to 49 acts of media violence in a day, the average child ends up having his brain continually exposed to high levels of both dopamine and endorphins. And just like a drug addict who gets addicted to his drug of choice from the chemical blast it produces, a child can get addicted to the neurochemical high he gets from watching violent media. While both children and adults are susceptible to becoming addicted to their own neurochemicals, children may be more at risk. This is because, as noted earlier, children have 40 percent more dopamine receptor sites than adults. Our understanding of brain chemistry is lending credence to the phrase “the media is the opiate for the masses.”
My family personally witnessed the addictive effects of TV when a city youngster, who had spent an average of four hours a day with media, came to visit us in Colorado. After five days of hiking, golfing, horseback riding, and canoeing, when asked by his uncle if he wanted to stay longer, said “I really want to, but when I get up in the morning they do not watch TV and I feel so uncomfortable without it, I don’t think I can stay.” Like a drug addict, this child was experiencing withdrawal. His addiction to the neurochemicals that the media produced was forcing him to choose the media over a real life childhood adventure.
While the story of the media-addicted child is sad, it is happening every day as millions of our youth are glued to their video terminals experiencing a media life in lieu of a real life! The author of Last Child in the Woods, Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv writes “Our children are the first generation to be raised without meaningful contact with the outside world.â€ He notes the media has become so addictive that many children would rather not go outside at all. He quotes one child as saying” I like to play indoors better because that is where all the electrical outlets are.”
In the book Cracking the Learning Code and in future newsletters you will discover:
About SEX AND THE MEDIA
That a study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that, to keep their attention, shows aimed at teens average at least six sexual references per hour.
How sexual and pornographic images seen at a young age are burned into a child’s brain and can dramatically influence adult behavior in negative ways.
That one out of five kids have been solicited by a predator online.
How the media and pornography may be breeding out our species’ ability to develop deep relationships.
What role the media plays in the finding that 84 percent of unattached singles are not looking for a partner and seem unable to build lasting relationships with the opposite sex.
That the excessive sexual messages in the media are causing some young children and teens to become so obsessive about their looks that they have sought counseling.
About VIDEO GAMES AND VIOLENCE
Why violent video games cause more neurological and behavioral change than just watching violent media.
Why one military expert on 60 Minutes called first-person shooter games “a how-to manual for killing without conscience.”
That the two teenagers who performed the cold-blooded shootings at Columbine were both fans of first-persons shooter games like Doom and how it influenced their actions.
How one Kentucky teenager who shot up his school learned how to use guns so well by playing first-person shooter video games that the first time he ever used a real gun he accurately hit eight people with eight bullets, five to the head and three to the upper torso!
That first-person shooter video games teach a child how to kill without stimulating the part of the brain that allows him to see and feel the ramifications of his actions.
That Dr. Markku Linnolia, scientific director of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholics, notes, “We have perhaps the most violent TV anywhere in the world. TV becomes the baby’s-sitter, and the conflict-resolution pattern seen by the kids is the blowing away of the other guy. Then we provide the easiest availability of handguns, even automatic weapons in the world.” That one ad for an action video game promoted itself by advertising “More fun than shooting your neighbor’s cat” and urged players to get in touch with their cold-blooded murdering side.
About IMITATION AND THE MEDIA
How sex and violence in the media affects the set of genes and the neural structures that force us to imitate the actions of others (see “Why Humans Are Such Copycats“)
How studies show “the more violent the media, the more violent the kid.”
How one study found that a group of 2- and 3-year-olds “literally fought” while imitating the violence contained in TV cartoons.
How research shows even TV news shows have negative effects on the behaviors and sleep patterns of children.
About SLEEP AND THE MEDIA
How sex and violence in the media eliminate sweet dreams for our children.
That excessive media imagery is one reason spending on sleep aids for children has gone up 223 percent.
What the media’s role is in the finding that 69 percent of all children experience one or more sleep problems at least a few a night a week.
That because children unconsciously dream during REM sleep about the sex, violence, and even rape that they see on television shows like CSI and Desperate Housewives, valuable academic learning never gets into long-term memory.
About PLAY AND THE MEDIA
That experts no longer look at physical play in the real world as frivolous and wasted time but as instrumental in helping provide our genetic programs and neurological structures with the stimuli necessary for normal childhood development.
How the media robs children of the physical play stimulation they need to develop normally.
Why many biologists believe that the long period of physical childhood play is what has allowed humans to become the most dominant species on earth.
Why Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, says that “To take nature and natural play away from children may be tantamount to withholding oxygen.”
Why one researcher found that children in nontechnical societies have 25 percent greater sensory awareness than children in the United States.
That the average kid spends 29,000 hours sitting comatose in front of the TV before he or she turns 18.
Why brain-based educator Joseph Chilton Pearce maintains that play “is the very force of society and civilization, and a breakdown in ability to play will reflect in a breakdown of society.”
That Jane Healy, author of Endangered Minds, reports that extensive TV viewing by children develops adults who have failed to build the mental concepts necessary to succeed in the real world.
That today’s grandparents get more exercise than their grandchildren, because the kids are too busy watching TV, using the web, and playing video games.
Why professor of neurology at Stanford, Frank Wilson, an expert on the evolution of the human brain says we have been sold a bill of goods – especially parents – about the value of computer-based learning: “Because these students have so little real-world experience; they’ve never siphoned anything, never fixed a car, never worked on a fuel pump, may not even have hooked up a garden hose. For a whole generation of kids, direct experiences in the backyard, in the tool shed, in the fields and woods, has been replaced by indirect learning through machines. These young people are smart …but now we know something is missing.”
About BONDING AND THE MEDIA
That most kids spend more time bonding with the media than with their own parents! Studies show:
By the time a child is 5, he will have watched over 6,000 hours of television.
By the time the average child reaches 16, he will have spent six hours in front of the media for every one hour he spends with his parents.
Adolescents spend only 47 minutes of quality time with their parents each week, compared to the 30 hours or more they spend with the media.
That the lack of quality bonding time with parents is producing kids who lack efficient social and empathetic skills.
About CREATIVITY AND THE MEDIA
How flooding a child’s brain with thousand upon thousand of images a day, created by someone else’s brain, can limit a child’s creativity.
Why Jerome Singer, professor of psychology and child study at Yale, condemns the media, saying that it preempts children “from doing what they ought to be doing – learning to create mini worlds that they can control. Kids who can do this are more cooperative, more likely to become leaders, less likely to be overtly aggressive.” Conversely, he says that the kids who watch more TV, and thus engage in less creative play, show “negative emotion: not only anger, but also more stress or crying.”
That toddlers and children who watch a lot of TV are less likely to engage in fantasy play, which is the basis of a creative imagination.
About ADHD, ADD, DEPRESSION, SUICIDE, SEIZURES
How the media is adding to the explosion of children, teens, and adults diagnosed with ADHD and ADD.
Why, from 2000 to 2003, spending on ADHD drugs for preschoolers increased by an amazing 396 percent.
That the media may be a major reason that children and teen suicide rates are up 150 percent since the 1950s.
That studies show that children and adults become more depressed and lonely after web and TV usage.
That, in an effort to gain greater viewer-ship, a Japanese cartoon show went from the normal pace of one image every few seconds to one every half second. The consequences were profound – over 700 children went into epileptic-like fits and many were hospitalized.
About ADDICTION AND THE MEDIA
That kids can become so addicted to the sexual and violent media content that they will sneak it like a drug
That because of media addiction, Japan now has an epidemic of young people who won’t leave their homes.
Why 5 to 10 percent of the online population is addicted.
To learn what you can do to control your child’s media usage go to the bonus section, “Your Child and the Media.”