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Access to Violence and Pornography Alters Boys’ Brains

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Recently, I had the opportunity to attend TED2014 and I was very excited about what psychologist Philip Zimbardo had to say. He spoke about how men are failing socially, academically and with women. His TED talk struck a nerve with me.

The debate is on about how we as a nation are failing our boys and men, and many fingers, including Zimbardo’s, are pointing to our technology-driven society (namely violent video games and easy access to pornography) and schools that aren’t as “boy friendly.”

I agree: it is time we step up to the plate and support our boys early on, before they become disengaged men.

Our boys are immersed in technology that is altering their brains

The shift in our culture toward increased technology time – television, video games, the internet, and social media – is not without consequence.

Whenever you watch anything on television, your imagination pulls you into what you’re watching. As a result, you react emotionally as if whatever is happening on television is actually happening to you. Consider that the average American youth spends approximately 50 hours per week in front of some sort of screen or another, whether playing video and computer games or watching television. That’s a LOT of screen time, to say the least. Consistent exposure to violent video games, television shows, and movies, as well as pornography, can impact the brain and actually alter its architecture.

According to Dr. John P. Murray, “Viewing behavior in media triggers certain areas of the brain that are associated with ‘arousal/attention, detection of threat, episodic memory encoding and retrieval, and motor programming’.” Murray’s study mapped the amygdala and related brain structures, using functional magnetic resonance imaging to ascertain the neurological changes that resulted from watching violence on television. He concluded that a relationship existed between the chemistry of the brain and violent viewing, which affected both cognitive and motor behavior.

Therefore, when boys are exposed to media violence, it becomes stored in the brain in a manner similar to post-traumatic stress disorder memories. Another study by Dr. Craig A. Anderson involving media violence exposure in youth, found that even short-term viewing of violence can increase physical and verbal aggression, aggressive thoughts and aggressive emotions. In fact, according to Anderson, frequent exposure to media violence during childhood can lead to aggressive behavior later in life, including physical and spousal abuse.

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