Nancy Carlsson-Paige (aka Matt Damon's mom) on how violence in the media affects childhood development
burkeysmom__Guest_: Hello Dr. Carlsson-Paige - I work at the Waldorf School in Lexington. We are a media-free school in which we stress to parents the importance of keeping children "screen -free" for a variety of child development reasons. Your research and book would be welcomed news at our school. Would you be willing to come talk to our community?
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: I would be very happy to speak at your school and think the Waldorf philosophy has much to teach us these days as our schools sideline play and social experiences. You can write to me at my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
vicky__Guest_: Are kids at any disadvantage by not watching tv and therefore not being aware of popular culture that "all the other kids" are?
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: Hi Vicky,
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: Some parents who don't have TV tell me that their kids feel left out of play that centers on popular media. You can find ways to clue your children in on these pop themes so they're not left out: tell them the story about who the characters are and what they do, find a book or some information on line to help you fill them in, perhaps watch a bit of a video togethter.
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: Good luck with this challenging problem!
scarlet926__Guest_: Have you found that boys respond more to violent television and media than girls? Is it a losing battle to try to keep my son away from the sort of thing he's naturally drawn to? Any tips?
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: Hi Scarlet, boys are naturally drawn to stories and media that show powerful, masterful figures and stories. Unfortunately, this has been twisted into a violence focus by the media makers. I wrote a book with Diane Levin called The War Play Dilemma (Teachers College Press) that has a lot of good information on how to nagivate these difficult waters.
c__Guest_: I won't let my son buy the game Halo for Xbox. I'm sure he plays it at friends houses, but am I a bad parent for being witholding like this? It appears to be violent and I'm a little uneasy about all of the shooting
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: I am very wary of violent video games. Research shows they desensitize kids to violence, even more because they engage kids in committing violence. But if you can talk with your son, have honest dialogues about why you don't want him to play this game, that will help him understand more than if you simply forbid it. In my new book I try to help parents see ways to work WITH their kids on some of these troubling issues. Good luck.
Evy__Guest_: I am very interested in what can be done to decrease exposure to violence in general and particularly for children. Are there any organizations in which one can volunteer to work on these issues?
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: Hi Evy,
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: We need government regulations that protect children from seeing violence in the media. Currently we have a situation where media corporations can market what they want without consequence. A great group to get involved with is CCFC (Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood). They are doing some great things to push back on violence. They have a conference next week open to the public at Wheelock College.
joseph__Guest_: How do you feel about Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" programming. It seems like a controversial group of shows that I'd like my children to avoid, yet at the same time, I know when I was younger, I'd watch cartoons aplenty.
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: Hi Joseph,
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: I am not familiar with the "Adult Swim" programming but now I will look into it. Cartoons today are not what they were years ago. There is a lot more violent and sexualized content that confuses children and pushes values and ideas on them that are not naturally suited to children. I think it's important to talk with your children about your concerns, maybe look at the show together and tell them what concerns you and why. These days, we can't protect our kids from seeing some things we wish they didn't see, but we can help them become more conscious of media and how it impacts them and the problems with it if we talk with them about these issues.
Pam__Guest_: Do you think that the people who crave violence-watching are often those with a lack of a community of real people with whom they could demonstrate the power of brotherly love?
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: Hi Pam,
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: Entertainment violence encourages people to be antisocial and promotes win/lose kinds of relationships. Maybe some people are drawn to violent entertainment because they are already somewhat isolated, but certainly watching it will make them more cut off from "brotherly love" as you say.
jay_mor: I am actually finding it easier to steer clear of the violence for my12 & 10 year old but I'm very concerned about barrage of sexual innuendo. We were watching TV and the previews of Lipstick Jungle kept coming on. I started changing the channel. Is there work being done to study the impact of this on children? I hope your son will take on some child friendly roles so my DD can admire him too.
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: Hi Jay,
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: The sexualization of media young people see is a real concern. There is a group called Dads and Daughters you might want to join (I'm assuming you are a dad). My colleague Diane Levin has a book coming out in August called So Sexy So Soon on this topic and it has suggestions for parents for things they can do to counteract the sexualized media messages their kids get. Try to talk to your daughters about what concerns you. They need to hear another point of view!
Rick__Guest_: I've always thought video game addiction and over exposure to TV inhibits child developement.isit would help kids to meet with victims of violence who are willing to "scare them straight". Can you recommend a "field trip" for kids that would
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: Hi Rick,
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: This is an interesting question. I don't know how this could actually be done, but it's a good idea, especially if the children are older, say over 12 years. But I'm not sure where the "recovered" addicts could be found. But if such folks could be located, I'm sure their experience would enlighten young people.
hank__Guest_: What do you think is the single most troublesome television show thats corrupting (or at least being a bad influence) on youth today?
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: Hi Hank,
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: I wish this were a dialogue because I have the sense you have a show in mind and I'd like to know what it is. I haven't surveyed TV enough to have an opinion on this but I'm not in support of shows that promote violence, sexualized content, or disrespect to young children. And even as kids get older, this kind of modeling can influence behavior and values in negative ways.
lilliansmom__Guest_: I know most experts recommend that young children NOT watch any TV. Is there any evidence that educational programming actually does any good? (full disclosure: I have a 2 year old who loves to watch "Curious George" in the morning and is a fan of "Maisy the Mouse" DVDs.)
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: Hi Lillian's mom,
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: Best of luck!
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time before the age of two because the brain is developing so rapidly and there's not enough research to show no harm. In fact, a recent study shows slowing of language development in kids who watch TV or videos. If Lillian loves these two shows, can you offer one per day and talk with Lillian about why you do it that way? The AAP says one hour per day of screen time after the age of 2. I would try to keep the time on the low side because active, first-hand experience in the three-dimensional world best promotes healthy cognitive, emotional, and social development.
Pam__Guest_: Can you tell about any victories CCFC (for Commercial-Free Childhood) has had?
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: You can go on the CCFC web site and see all their campaigns and victories. It will inspire you!
Bill_Clinton__Guest_: Cable news is oftentimes more violent than network dramas. Are children supposed to avoid the news too?
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: It depends on the age of the child. Young children should not see graphic violence on the news or in entertainment. We really have to monitor it. Can you watch the news after the kids are in bed? As kids get older and can understand more about what the news is, how it fits in a broader context, they are more capable of understanding what they see and handling it.
Bill_Clinton__Guest_: I don't think Hollywood is instilling violence in viewers, rather, viewers demand violent movies. As long as there is a market for them, violent movies will continue to be produced.
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: Yes, it is a vicious cycle. The demand is there in viewers partly because they get an appetite for violence and want more. One study showed a ratings creep: PG-13 movies today have the amount of violence that R-rated movies had a decade ago.
Lanstenslovey1__Guest_: Hi Nancy What do you think about cartoons that are geared towards children but have adult content
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: I'm not sure which cartoons you are referring to, but adult content in whatever form is fine for adults who choose to watch it. But children should see content suited to kids.
Bill_Clinton__Guest_: you know that part in 'the departed' where mark wahlberg totally wastes that guy at the end? that was cool.
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: I know plenty of adults who love to see graphic violence in films. That is a separate question from our responsibility as adults to protect children from seeing violence that could traumatize them or desensitize them to the feelings of others.
Pam__Guest_: A favorite idea of mine has been to have a required course before age 16 on How to Raise Infants & Toddlers, saying, for instance, that you can't give too much love, and that you should talk to your infant because they learn words before they can talk. It would be anti-macho. It could warn potential parents that watching violence can be scary and influential to little ones.
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: I'm with you, Pam. I would love to see required course in all of our high schools nationwide on child development and all the issues important to understanding and protecting that as a precious time in life.
Mark__Guest_: Nancy, your son is guilty of promoting violence and making hand guns look cool in his movies. He has also made millions of dollars doing this, what if any advice have you given him? Is it a matter of everyone is doing it, so should I. Or should he select roles where he's not shooting and killing everyone in his path?
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: Hi Mark,
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: Adults have different views about violence in films. I have talked with so many different people about this and heard so many perspectives. I believe there is way too much violence in films, promoted often by box office sales that rise the bloodier things get. Matt and I don't share the same views about violence in adult films, but we do see eye-to-eye on the importance of protecting children. We both support regulations to stop the marketing of violence in films to children through violent toys, products, and video games.
Lanstenslovey1__Guest_: There are some cartoons on the cartoon network that I do not think are suited for kids due to some violent content and adult language. I hope these shows would be at least shown at a later time.
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: I agree with you about this. We need to get much better at separating adult content from that for children.
Pam__Guest_: In 1999, I tried to start a group called "No Violence in 2000" on broadcast TV and in new movies. I thought that if people could do without it for a year, statistics might actually show a decrease in violence. Do you know of any similar experiments?
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: I don't know of any such experiment, but I am sure that violence is an addictive appetite that needs to get fed. If you went cold turkey, I think the taste for it would diminish. Good idea you had!
Pam__Guest_: I had people sign a petition (for "No Violence" for a year), but one 17-year-old said no, he didn't think he could go that long without watching violence.
Nancy_Carlsson-Paige: At least your petition made the teen think about his need to see violence. That was probably helpful to him.