“The question is: do we filter what we feed upon? As parents, we protect our kids from harm in any way we can, but how do we guard their minds?”
In rain we use an umbrella, in cold we bundle up, when in the sun we protect our skin and wear sunglasses. But what protection do we use to protect our brain? Next to oxygen, data absorption and collection is the most abundant in our lifetime. Professor Sir Robin Murray, one of the UK’s leading psychiatrists states that “we won’t be able to understand the brain. It is the most complex thing in the universe.” Science tells us that the human mind is so vast and complex that it is 1000 times as powerful as a current CPU in your computer. The average adult human brain has 125 trillion synapses (connecting points) and has the ability to store the equivalent of 2.5 million gigabytes of digital memory. It is mind boggling to say the least, and this is achieved without your morning coffee.
With such a powerful tool at our disposal, what is the best way to protect the human brain? Does it matter how and what is accumulated? What about age: can a child and adult fill their brains the same without life altering consequences?
Can the human brain distinguish reality from fantasy? Experimentation was done to see if the brain can be tricked. In order to understand fictional events we first need to distinguish reality from fantasy. This involves high level processes of a known reality as well as fantasy, both of which are impaired in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The study examined how adults with and without ASD make sense of reality-violating fantasy narratives by testing real-time understanding of counterfactuals. An example of a counterfactuals: “If the moon was made of cheese, I could have eaten a slice of the moon for lunch”, requires readers to temporarily accept false information as true (that the moon is made of cheese) and to accommodate subsequent events according to that hypothetical model of the world (I ate a slice of the moon for lunch).
What about physical or emotional trauma, especially at a young age—can that alter how the brain interprets reality? According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, trauma, toxic stress, and adverse childhood experiences permanently change a child’s body and brain, which can have serious, lifelong consequences. Sadly, policies that affect young children generally do not address the severity to which early exposure to trauma and stress can affect a child’s body and brain.
Can the brain separate what it feeds upon from physical trauma, or can violent movies or video games with horror or torture scare the brain and alter our reality? A Review of the Empirical Research on Psychological Responses to Horror Films examines why people like scary movies, and how exposure to horror films change behavior, why we fear specific classes of stimuli, and how liking horror develops during childhood and adolescence. In conclusion, low empathy and fearfulness are associated with more enjoyment and desire to watch horror.
The same can be true about children being sexualized at an early age—by being exposed to sexual material in movies, television, music and other media—because the images they see can leave a lasting impression. The research has established that teens exposed to such content tend to engage in those behaviors themselves. Exposure (by age 14) to pornography and other explicit material may increase the risk of a child becoming a victim of sexual violence or acting out sexually against another child. For others it may be more likely to commit sexual assault, rape or child molestation.
The human mind is extraordinary yet not fully understood. It has mass capacity for storage and retrieval yet the filing system at times may be confused and memories distorted depending on the content. The saying you are what you eat makes sense, and can also be applied to the human brain. As far as intellect is concerned, we can use the old proverb that asks what dog is stronger: the white dog or the black dog? The answer is: the one you feed the most. According to the World Health Organization the average lifespan is 72 years. Beginning at 10 years of age (which is an optimistic estimation considering children at much younger age start following social media) the average person will spend 3,462,390 minutes or 6 years and 8 months on social media in their lifetime.
The question is: do we filter what we feed upon? As parents, we protect our kids from harm in any way we can, but how do we guard their minds? The eyes are known as the window to the soul, and the brain is known as the basis of our reality. When I was a teen, my 86 year old grandfather gave me a valuable lesson. He said “as you age, collect good memories for when you become my age they will become your reality, what you fed upon will be played over and over again especially when you are alone.”