With more summer freedom for children, especially with their video games and access to the internet on cellphones with less parental guards in many cases, many young children whose brains are in critical stages of development, who do not clearly distinguish reality from fiction, and who do not yet have their own developed consciences are critically at risk. Children, especially under eight, need parental and guardian supervision. Too many children today have unsupervised access to movie, television, computer screens that are sources of harmful, damaging stimulation.
According researchers on moral development, children under eight require supervision of parental figures. Leading authority, Lawrence Kohlberg, and other researchers have contended that children 2-7 depend on parents or other adults to tell them what is right and to interpret the world for them. Generally under age 7 or 8, children’s consciences are external. Typically, children develop their own consciences after 7 or 8, according to Kohlberg. Jean Piaget, leader in cognitive development, and other researchers have asserted that children under 7 or 8 can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality before 7 or 8.
Headmaster Peter Tait’s concerns are verified by much research over the past 70 years. He is concerned not only about the wrong kind of stimulation for children but about too much information too early. He states, “…We see it everywhere – the effects of ‘too much information’, much of which is delivered via an unregulated Internet, on mental health, on self-image, on diet, self-harming and so on. Yet while we struggle to teach children how to use and filter the Internet, we have other sections of society determined to inform young children about issues of sexuality, of adult problems, of diseases and behaviors at a younger and younger age, without any consideration of the social and emotional effect on the child.
The result is that we have an epidemic of mental illness as children struggle with ‘too much information’ or ‘too much, too soon’, with the effect evident in increased depression…This adherence to some warped political correctness that says all knowledge should be transparent and freely available has led to children being exposed to issues of sexuality, criminality, disease, in fact, all the angst of modern life at an age at which many cannot cope. It is an act that borders on criminal…. The issue, however, is not how we protect children by sheltering them from the ugly excesses of the world; simply, how can we convince people of the need to only tell them when they are ready, and need, to know….”
Not only must parents and guardians supervise children so that they are exposed to what is appropriate for each stage of their development, but parents and those in loco parentis can exercise consumer power to encourage, support, advocate for what is appropriate and positive for children in movies, on television, on computers and more. Beyond providing controls of media consumption for the children they supervise, they can support the production of worthwhile media.
Some of the many ways to exercise positive consumer media power include the following: vote for worthwhile movies by buying tickets for them in theaters; use feedback tools on movie theater sites and online ads; vote for good movies and television just by visiting their IMDb pages online, speak up on social media about good or poor movies, television, ads and much more. Producers monitor social feedback and can be influenced by positive consumer power.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who lost his life in Nazi Germany said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Written by Diane Howard, Ph.D., Performance Studies, dianehoward.com