Reclaiming Your Mind Space...and your Family's
Why is our culture obsessed with what we eat, and the drugs that we consumer to artificially stimulate our brains, while we pay relatively little attention to the actual sensory stimuli we take in?
As a neuroscientist one of the things I studied was activity-dependent plasticity, meaning that the things we see, hear, do, or touch can literally reshape our brains.
Yesterday I came across a new study that makes a causal link between violent video games and aggressive behavior. This goes further than previous correlative studies that might just show that violent people gravitate toward violent games. While this research is evolving and still controversial, it seems that we are heading toward a consensus that at the very least, viewing violence desensitizes our response to seeing real-life violent images. Is this what we want?
I've started investigating statistics on children's exposure to internet porn as well. According to the Top Ten Reviews site, the largest group of internet porn consumers is 12-17 year olds, and the average age of first exposure to porn is age 11. What is that doing to our chilren's sexual self-images, ideas about what is a normal relationship and behavior, framework about what it means to be a man or a woman, and sex as an abstract experience versus a real relationship? I am horrified to think of my daughter having her first date someday with a boy whose ideas about relationships have been shaped by years of porn exposure, and I hate to think of her being exposed to these images and storylines as well.
I hope you will make your media diet a topic of conversation with your family. The American Psychiatric Association has posted guidelines and food for thought that is a good place to start. This feels like an unpopular stance to take right now amid our popular culture, but that can't stop concerned parents from acting. I know too much as a mother and as a neuroscientist not to care.