By Melissa Ford
Guest Post by Gloria DeGaetano, educator, author, and founder, The Parent Coaching Institute
Many parents, unfortunately, seem to think that their children can handle M-rated video games. Nothing can be further from reality. Yet, so many moms and dads are looking the other way, while children as young as six years old, look at inappropriate content such as murder, torture, and prostitution for up to six hours a day.
In a new survey, 50% of parents weren't keeping tabs on the video games their kids played. This is such a tragic situation. Have you seen the psychopathic and sadistic images in popular video games? Even in this age of "information" when supposedly we know so much more about child and teen brain development, parents don't fully understand the relationship between their kids' exposure to media violence and its impact on healthy emotional and social development.
I started the Parent Coaching Institute and the Parent Coach Certification® Training Program so that family support professionals would have a specific coaching system for helping parents make daily choices in alignment with their child's brain development. I call it Brain-Compatible Parenting™. It's a passion of mine to translate all the knowledge we now have about what makes smart, emotionally stable, and compassionate brains into parental actions.
This has been a two-decade uphill battle, even though it's not rocket science.
Although laying down neural pathways is a complex process, it's the simple things parents do that activates this complex process and makes mature brains possible. Simple things, like making sure kids get enough physical exercise, proper nutrition, and solid sleep that add up to big differences over time. And one thing is for sure in our media world, when parents monitor screen content, young brains have the best chances of growing optimally. If we leave them free as birds with their devices, they will fly so far away from our values we may not recognize them as adults.
I recently updated my book, co-authored with Lt. Cold Dave Grossman, Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie, and Video Game Violence (Harmony/Random House, 2014). The title is a bit misleading. The book is more about the risk factors of all kids when exposed to an on-going diet of media violence and what we can do about it in our homes, schools, and communities. And while only a fraction of kids will act out the murders they have rehearsed for countless hours while playing video games, most kids will be affected by media violence in becoming more aggressive, fearful, or more desensitized to harming others.
We are in a crisis of emerging mindless cruelty for our entire world if we keep allowing inappropriate screen content into our homes. One way to think about it:
If a stranger lived in our homes teaching our kids how to fire headshots with precision, or if we encountered a teacher in the school training kids to communicate with others so they would want to harm themselves, of course, most parents wouldn't allow it. They would put a stop to it at once.
But with media violence, it's a different story. We urgently need to change that story—now—by letting parents know about the serious side effects of media violence.
If you understand the brain science and if you know a parent who needs to connect the dots between their youngsters' exposure to violent video games and their young brains' inability to handle, filter, understand and resist the emotional havoc that these images induce, please, please discuss this with that mom or dad. Explain the vulnerabilities of young brains and why video games of violence and prostitution are not appropriate entertainment for children or teens. There is a reason these games are marked M. And there are so many non-violent, age-appropriate games, apps out there now.
Please talk with a parent about this today.
If not you, then who?
Copyright, Gloria DeGaetano. 2014. Used with permission.
Gloria DeGaetano, founder of the Parent Coaching Institute, has been a media literacy educator since 1987. She is the author of several books, including Parenting Well in a Media Age: Keeping Our Kids Human (Personhood Press, 2005) and the recently released (with Lt. Col. Dave Grossman), Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie, and Video Game Violence (Harmony Books/Random House), 2014.