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From the Principal’s Pen- January 2018

Submitted by: Jennifer McGee, Principal of Atwood Primary School

I just finished watching the series Game of Thrones. I felt like I had to do it to fit in.  Everyone was talking about it, and I felt left out of the conversation. The final straw was when we went to a professional baseball game in Tampa and it was “Game of Thrones Day” at the ball field.  Everyone was in costume. The players had their favorite characters listed.

So, I watched it.

It was so gory!!!!  Even when I covered my eyes, I could hear the gore!  And I am an adult, so I know the difference between science fiction and what is real…but I was very afraid of those White Walkers!  I could NOT get to sleep after watching it, episode after episode…

Anyhow, this leads me to my point of this month’s Principal’s Pen: video game and television violence, and the impact it has on children.

In 2015, the American Psychological Association (APA) released a definitive report on their findings:  there is a direct connection between violent video game use and increased aggressive behavior, increased aggressive thoughts and decreased empathy and pro-social behavior.

In reality, as a school principal for the past 18 years, these findings do not surprise me.  I often hear teachers talking about how children blur the line between their video games and real life.  The same thing happens in my office with young children telling me, in detail, about a movie scene that was frightening or a television show that left them confused about “the scary doll”or the “zombie” or the “bad guy”.  We also see fall out from this on the playground. Children play out violent scenes from video games that consume their minds…and then their thoughts and their play.

Perhaps even more disturbingly, research indicates children who have been exposed to an abundance of violence become desensitized and less empathetic.  It makes perfect sense.  If a young child has witnessed terrible violence, graphic injuries or even death, on the screen…then, when they see a friend with a “boo boo” on the playground, it may not seem like such a big deal.

And what about how exposure to violence impacts a child’s ability to solve a problem? If video games are designed to use violence to solve conflicts, then it is natural to assume this is how children believe problems are solved.   When they get angry on the playground because someone isn’t being “fair”, some children will move immediately to hitting, pushing, kicking and tackling to “right the wrong”.  Why? Because that is what they have seen.

Children’s knowledge and understanding about the world around them comes from what they hear and what they see.  Small children cannot easily distinguish make-believe from reality.  If children have seen ample doses of violence, and adults or children treating each other violently, they can become desensitized to the real-life consequences and impacts of violence.

Mind you, video games are not all bad.  There are some very real positive outcomes of gaming. When children play age appropriate (the suggested ages are right on the games) video games in reasonable doses, they learn to sustain attention, they learn to master challenges, and they can learn to focus on their problem-solving in spite of background noises and disturbances. These can all translate to great school and future job preparation skills!

Children’s minds are so plastic when they are young.  They take in so much at such a rapid rate, and their thinking starts to become “hard-wired” by what we teach them and what they learn!  We want to make sure they are learning all of the right things in order, not to become great students, but to become great human beings.

As the adults in these children’s worlds, we need to protect them from the “ugly” out there for as long as we can!

Educationally  Yours,

Jennifer McGee

 

Dates in January to Note:

January 1: No School/ New Year’s Day

January 15: No School/ Martin Luther King Day

January 22: No School/ Full Day Teacher Inservice

If the weather outside is frightening….listen and watch for cancellations!

Changes of socks and mittens in bags is a good thing!

Coming Events at Atwood Primary