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Brain Safety

by Ronald A. Rowe | October 29th, 2014 | Elementary, Social

children-403583_1280We’ve covered just about every safety issue known to parents on this site but there is one more related safety topic that has yet to be addressed: brain safety.  I’m not talking about making sure your child wears a helmet to protect against physical trauma to the brain.  I’m talking about the dangers of what goes into your child’s brain through his or her eyes and ears.  That can be as dangerous in the long term as anything else.

Children are notoriously bad judges of what they can and cannot handle.  Given the chance, any five-year-old will tell you that he or she is old enough for R-rated movies, M (for Mature) rated video games, and every violent, sexual, and horrifying show on TV.  They just don’t have the proper frame of reference or ability for self-analysis to make that determination.  If they cannot judge rightly on their own, we have to do it for them.  And the answer, more often than not, is “no”.

There are plenty of parents out there who let their elementary aged children watch wildly inappropriate TV shows and movies.  I’m horrified by what some of the second and third grade students I work with have seen.  The Walking Dead is one of my favorite TV shows (who am I kidding, The Walking Dead is my favorite TV show) but the dead will walk in real life before I would let my eight-year-old son watch that program.  He wouldn’t sleep for a month, which means that none of us would sleep for a month.

But even if a child has the constitution to watch such a show without having nightmares, it just isn’t appropriate material for a developing brain.  Elementary students are still learning how to cope with the various stimuli by which their senses are assaulted every day.  They’re still working out how they will deal with this big world around them.  They are going to become desensitized to violence.  They are going to be exposed to sex and nudity.  They are going to hear crass jokes and watch melodrama play out on screen.  Eventually.

But we don’t have to rush them into it.  We, as parents, need to be sensitive to each child’s temperament but never, ever let a mature or jaded disposition lead us to give up and open the floodgates.  There is precious little on primetime TV that is OK for little eyes.  There’s time enough for all that later and just because little Johnny’s parents let him watch The Blacklist (another excellent show for adults) doesn’t mean that you should follow suit with your children.

Innocence is an irreplaceable gift.  Once it is gone, it is gone and it is never coming back.  Let your child hold onto that gift as long as you can.  There’s plenty of time for growing up and the dreaded tween years with all their drama and change are coming up soon enough.  Protect your children’s brains now and they will be better able to handle the influx later.

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