Children today live lives that are surrounded by Legos, Disney movies, recess and Spongebob. However, more and more parents of very young girls and boys are also worried about another thing their child’s life revolves around and that is death.
Now, there are child psychologists that say that questions about death and loss are normal for kids, however simple questions about death are not the only thing that are worrying parents.
More and more parents are concerned about how children are reacting to death now that perpetual war has become a part of our lives. Children are now suffering from what can be called bystander curiosity syndrome where death no longer shocks them and they become voyeurs to death and destruction that they find in both video games and on the television news programs.
A mother once wrote a columnist for advice because she was witnessing a strange reaction from her boys about the coverage of war on television. One said very little as if he was mesmerized by the image while the other son asked “Why don’t we all just kill them all…it’s no big deal.”
Children, as with many people today, are falling into the abyss of psychological numbing. There are many reasons why this is happening and we can first see it in our children with what they say and how they react to, what adults are calling, the apocalypse.
Believe it or not, psychological numbing plays a huge role in what the news media covers and what it doesn’t. The media wants you to pay attention to certain stories dealing with effects of many people rather than with the individual at first. Stories that deal with individual death take a backseat to stories where mass death occurs because it is easier to cope with deaths of people that have no histories or personalities.
It is part of the numbing process and the media has the power to create stories about people that have died because there is no way for them to respond. A perfect example of this is with the recent disappearance of Malaysia Flight MH370. We face the possibility that everyone on board died. However, the political views of the pilot are now being questioned and the deaths or possible deaths of those that were on board no longer matter in the media.
What message does that send? Do people care more about the political motive behind the flight that has gone missing or do they care more of the political attitudes of the pilots?
Less coverage about the deaths of those on board breeds less concern for the humanity in the story. How do we expect people, even our children, to be moved by stories that should point out the loss of life, but instead identify a human being by his political attitudes and whether or not these attitudes breed the ideas of murdering people?
We certainly can’t be moved by a tragedy if we don’t know much about who died and why. And public concern drives government policy, so the agenda is to create public concern for terrorism, and people who have radical or extreme political views.
Debris of the plane and bodies in the ocean could be found tomorrow and yet the most important issue on the minds of the “bystander” is whether or not the plane was hijacked by a radical pilot in order to be refitted with a nuclear warhead to be dropped on New York or Israel.
The reason for death obsessions or the lack of empathy for death may be in the fact that today death and destruction does not carry with it the emotional power it once did and the idea of political motive and the romanticizing of villainy are far more palatable for people who are numb to it all.
Focusing on the motives behind why people suffer becomes the all-too-safe gimmick in the media. It is the showcasing of reprehensible behavior as opposed to focusing on human beings that once were breathing and contributing to the world.
This is why Americans generally don’t seem to be outraged about human loss; they are only outraged when the alleged perpetrator of the loss is fingered or apprehended. It is then that we show our consensus anger and in that anger some of the strangest ideas emerge.
According to the CDC’s Violence Prevention page: “A nationwide survey of youth in grades 9–12 in public and private schools in the United States (U.S.) found that 16% of students reported seriously considering suicide, 13% reported creating a plan, and 8% reporting trying to take their own life in the 12 months preceding the survey. Each year, approximately 157,000 youth between the ages of 10 and 24 receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries at Emergency Departments across the U.S.”
As we all know today, children’s desensitization to violence has increased numerously, especially in the past few years. According to the National Institute on Media and the Family: “By the time a child is eighteen years old, he or she will witness on television (with average viewing time) 200,000 acts of violence including 40,000 murders.” Not to mention children who have graduated from cartoonish video game play to first person shooter or violent battlefield simulation game play. They see a lot of killings happen in the video game and they are the ones doing the killing.
As the ChildrensMedia2Day website says: “Our society needs no more to ignore these problems of our future generations! What society are we growing up in, if we are unable to stop our children from being desensitized to violence? Today more than ever, children are becoming less scared of the everyday violent images they see on television or the Internet, neither what they hear on the radio.”
We live in a world where the horrors of possible terrorism and war are abundant. In fact, it can be argued that the fear of terrorism is statistically unwarranted, however, there can be arguments made for the possibility that realistically violent games that are created and played reinforce the images and the simulated reality of “kill or be killed.”
No one is saying that video games promote a violent culture; however, when someone is realistically placed into the battlefield scenario, one has to wonder if the brain absorbs the simulation and loosens its ability to distinguish the ‘uncanny valley’ scenario.
The simulation is becoming accepted and the question needs to be asked “How real is too real?” and what are the long-term and potentially lasting effects of repeatedly participating in realistically violent simulations?
Back in the day, it could be argued that a player firing at pixelated targets was a harmless activity. Now that most game programmers have allowed their consumers to play in a realistic theater, there may need to be a reevaluation of how all of the simulated reality affects the brain psychologically.
I was recently moved emotionally by a recent television airing of The Walking Dead. The episode called ‘The Grove’ focused on two little girls, Lizzie and Mika. While I must be careful about revealing spoilers, it is no secret that the two little girls had found themselves in a state of being psychologically numb to the danger that existed in a world of zombies and those who kill for survival. Mika seemed to have bit of displaced optimism with regards to humans and their morals, and stated that she would never be able to kill anyone, no matter how mean or horrible they became, and Lizzie had a fascination with the zombies, thinking that they were merely misunderstood, that they needed love and attention and that eventually they could be won over and literally be kept as pets.
Both of the children learn their lessons about what happens when the meek are exploited in an apocalyptic world.
Both of them showed signs that they were mentally off. One was too trusting, and the other was trusting the wrong feelings and listening to a more fragmented side of her conscience.
A parent writes: “When my son was three he told me that he really likes his new daddy, he’s really nice. My husband is his one and only daddy. I asked “Why is that?” He replied “My old daddy was really mean. He stabbed me in the back and I died. But I really like my new daddy; he’d never do that to me.””
This type of past-life talk I hear happens a lot with kids. Back when I first met my fiancé Janine, I would take her little boy Liam on mini-adventures. They consisted of going to parks and watching baseball games. One day as we were walking near a huge pond in a park. Liam, who was 4 or 5 at the time, pointed to the water and said “I once drowned in a pond like this.” I looked at him and said “Do you know what drowning means?” He replied “Yes it means I died.” I then asked what does death mean to you and he replied, “it means no more tomorrows.”
I was both creeped out and intrigued by the reply. He is now going to be 8 years old and seems to continue his intrigue with death. He likes horror films and also is a James Bond fan.
Art Linkletter used to have television show called “Kids Say The Darndest Things” and it was later resurrected by Bill Cosby. Today, if the show was to be brought back in prime time, it would probably be a little bit more disturbing as times have changed and children raised in the apocalypse are becoming more like the ‘Children of the Damned’ and are opening up to what the zeitgeist is telling them.