Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Reclaiming Your Mind Space...and your Family's

One of my life mottoes is "use everything," meaning take the knowledge and skills you develop at each stage of life and apply those experiences to new situations as your path evolves. I was a neuroscientist for many years before becoming a teacher, then a mother and writer. This has all come together as I have thought a lot lately about the media we consume and other aspects of our "mental diets." I first wrote about these ideas in Mojo Mom in the chapter about Reclaiming Your Mind Space.

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.

2 Comments:

Blogger Mother in Chief said...

I'm terrified as a parent to think about all the *stuff* that our kids will be exposed to, whether we like it or not. Yes we can limit Internet usage and monitor video games, etc. at home, but when they are out at a friend's house, it's going to be out of our control. I know every generation worries about the stuff their kids will be exposed to, but the Internet has really made access to *everything* so easy.

7:13 PM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

This is a comment from Mother in Chief....Blogger wouldn't post it for some reason so I'm posting it for her. --Amy

Mother in Chief has left a new comment on your post "Reclaiming Your
Mind Space...and your Family's":

I'm terrified as a parent to think about all the *stuff* that our kids will be exposed to, whether we like it or not. Yes we can limit Internet usage and monitor video games, etc. at home, but when they are out at a friend's house, it's going to be out of our control. I know every generation worries about the stuff their kids will be exposed to, but the Internet has really made access to *everything* so easy.

11:22 AM  

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