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Kids on Screens


Please, if you will, sing today’s title to the melody and beat of Duran Duran’s awesome Girls on Film. See, it kind of works. Try not to dwell on the fact the song debuted forty years ago. (Yeah…)

No, today’s write-up has nothing to do with child celebrities, though I wonder if any of them ever turned out okay. Todd Bridges is still standing, but he’s the last survivor – emphasis on survivor – of Diff’rent Strokes. Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout, Lovett?

What I’m about today is a sneaking suspicion that the modern age just ain’t all that it’s cracked up to be. The further we lumber into the Twenty-first Century, the more I wonder. What I’m getting at affects at least two-thirds of the general population. Today, specifically, my concern centers on the children, another example of creeping dysgenics.

The CIA used to – and probably still does – instruct its Clandestine Service operatives to not watch television. They did or do that for several reasons. The first is that they, being just the outfit to discover something like this, found that about two-thirds of humans are hardwired to be brainwashed, hypnotized, or otherwise open to some form of mind control or suggestion. One would assume they test applicants for this trait, but, then again, they’re a government operation.

How does the telly play into this phenomenon? Well, advertisers were decades ahead of Langley, figuring out much earlier that subliminal messages were simply made for delivery by televised transmission. All that’s needed are the lights, colors, and moving images. Sound adds an extra workable dimension. Once this process is understood, it’s easy to incorporate it into a variety of programs for various reasons.

And it’s any such screen – television, the movies, computers, tablets, and, the likely bane of civilization itself, smartphones. What are those programs and reasons? I’ll leave that to your imagination, upon positing that most of what’s viewed is pure, worthless garbage. I’m interested in the “how” behind this particular cognitive science and how it affects youthful minds.

A working entertainment screen acts like a narcotic, inducing elevated dopamine production with effects similar to benzodiazepines or opiates. When TeeVee people speak of “vegging out,” they’re speaking literally. The process is not limited to chemical exchange, especially inside young, developing brains. Doctors can see both the short-term and the permanent changes via CT, MRI, or PET technology. Immediately, the drug-like endocrine releases alter both thinking and physiological functioning, generally slowing them. This may produce a pleasant feeling in the subject, but it negatively impairs the subject’s health.

Couch potatoes are well-known for their decreased energy and stamina along with their increased girth – and all the detrimental numerical measurements accompanying both the decreases and increases. That’s bad enough. Yet, the mental impairment, especially in children, is cumulative. That’s beyond bad.

Professor Hikaru Takeuchi, a neuroscientist at Tohoku University, Japan, published a startling study about exactly what television does, long-term, to a child’s brain. The changes morph from chemical to physical, with abnormal growth in the frontal lobe, frontopolar cortex, hypothalamus, septum, sensorimotor, and visual reception centers. So altered, the child is increasingly susceptible to the symptoms of ADD or ADHD (pre-existing or not), lowered visual perception, increased aggression, depression, decreased vocabulary capacity, decreased linguistic ability, lowered reasoning ability, and even lowered general IQ. 

Is the BAD part clear now? If not, I’ll keep going.

Research released this year, by scientists in Hungary, exposes the horrific damage done by screens to Generation Alpha (the post-Z kids, born 2010 and after). While it’s a little predictable, I’m happy they finally have a common title. They also have a common problem. Our youngest generation has, if one thinks about it for a second, grown up in a world entirely awash in electronic entertainment and information. Here, I could write another entire column or a book. Why can’t Johnny read? He can’t even go outside! 

The good Hungarians found that screen-addicted children – and it is an addiction – by and through the aforementioned mechanisms, grow up or into entirely different thought patterns and processes than they would have normally and naturally. Beyond the horrors delineated by Takeuchi, newer studies show a stark, uniform shift from “right-brain” thinking to left. That means children become more detail-oriented at the expense of creativity and overall abstract reasoning abilities. It’s cliche but the researchers are correct in saying the kids “can’t see the forest for the trees.” 

And, no, I suspect we are not building a reliable corps of engineers and accountants. Consult the Japanese list of maladies again. Decreased mental horsepower, reasoning, and vocabulary inspire little confidence – even before expansive assessment skills are curtailed or eliminated. I theorize that the Hungarian change is more akin to Autism or other, related mental disorders. We may be creating a generation of children capable of sensing information, piecemeal, but without the necessary ability to scrutinize or express what they sense. 

The 2021 study notes the near-universal adoption of screens in education and laments that no other method of instruction is available. I don’t know, how about … books?

I’m not suggesting that anyone dispense with all modern electronics. (Give me another three to five years and I probably will). For now, for God’s sake and the sake of your children, LIMIT the damned exposure to this poison! As with any ordinary drug, a subject can be weaned off the plug-in pharmaceuticals. It starts with you and it’s up to you. Deprogram. 

*We’re reliably informed that sitcoms and pop-rock tunes from the 70s and 80s boost cognitive performance. Gen X science, that…