In addition to pictorial representations of information, audio information can be transmitted with ease. Blocking unwanted sounds can be difficult as anyone within range of a booming ‘musical car’ can attest. Anticipating when unwanted information will be transmitted is impossible, and we can all potentially receive information we don’t want.
Around 1981 or 1982 a murder was committed in Baltimore and the murderer recorded it with a small recorder in his pocket. A local radio station aired the tape on the ‘top of the hour’ news. I now know what that victim’s last sounds were and the image of how my kitchen looked as I rushed to the radio to turn it off is stamped in my mind. It is not a memory I wanted, it is not information I anticipated.
To add to my objection about the involuntary receipt of information, recent research using MRI technology showed that television violence affects children’s brains in ways other than that of desensitization, the modeling of violent behavior, and the development of belief that the real world is as violent as the world portrayed in movies and television programs. Dr. John Murray of Kansas State University found in MRI scans taken while children watched a variety of video clips, that the part of the brain associated with the long-term storage of traumatic events, an area linked to post-traumatic stress disorder, the premotor cortex, was stimulated.2
Add to this the near impossibility of escaping from saturation exposure to contemporary culture. ‘Future shock’ may be linked to a desire to return to the ‘good old days’ which are remembered as superior to the present even though our parents (or grandparents) say they had to walk five miles to school during blizzards with the journey being uphill both ways. We know that the past is not perfect, and there have been many improvements since the days of uphill blizzardy walks to school, but sometimes nostalgia is a comfortable place to visit.
As children my parents weren’t aware of the ills of greater society. Prejudice, inequity, and violence worse than what is shown on today’s television were realities for many people. But, for the most part, children then were not exposed to the cultural pollution that permeates today’s media.
My son was distressed to hear his three-year old son singing a word he thought the child had heard on the car radio: “funkin.” He was unsure what his son was singing, and thought it was a rendition of a song from the radio. He was certain that when I heard my grandson singing I was going to ‘kill’ someone. The story has a happy ending because my grandson was only singing a nursery song that I, his dear, sweet grandmama, sang to him: “Where is Thumbkin.” My grandson picked up the word he liked best and just sang “Funkin.” Although my son was relieved to find that his son was singing Grandmama’s song and not Puddle of Mudd’s, Barney and Larry the Cucumber are now the entertainment on family outings instead of whatever a radio station decides to play.
People have their entire adult lives to be aware of all the less-than-enlightening aspects of the world. Possessing a small, safe corner in our minds furnished with as much peace, warmth and love as possible is not such a bad thing to want for our children.
2, John Murray, “Brain Mapping Research”, Kansas State University, December
Copyright 2006, Valerie Bonham Moon
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