Megan McQuillan and I were talking one day about the implications of students scripting things they see, watch and play. We were talking about how, based on what kids say, we can sometimes tell what movies they've been watching or shows they like. This got us thinking about the flip side of this trait--that sometimes kids say or do things they wouldn't normally do based on what they play or watch. This inspired some research--as we are prone to doing. Megan found this article on Psychology Today based on research done by several institutions, including Virginia Tech and The University of Alabama. It talks about the parts of the brain that are affected by violent video games and content (movies, shows, etc.) and how that impacts kids and young adults both in changes to their brain and in their behavior. While the whole article is interesting and I recommend reading all of it (it's a quick read--promise), the line that stood out to me was this:
"Immature and/or aggressive children should not have access to violent films."
And here's why this seemingly obvious statement is significant. The children we work with are immature. That's not a bash or a disrespectful statement--it's a fact. Part of being on the autism spectrum is that individuals are socially and emotionally immature. They don't process and respond like their same aged peers. It's part of the disability. So while many of us might agree that of course children shouldn't be watching violent content or playing violent games, it's additionally significant for our kids. It's significant because the areas of the brain that this article sites are changed when kids are exposed to violent content are also areas of the brain that research has shown are impacted by autism. It's also important because due to their autism, many of our kids "script" or repeat things they hear or see. And because they are socially and emotionally immature, they don't make good decisions about where, when and to whom those statements are made.
So please, read the article and check out the research!
By: Ann Reece