Home' Teacher : December 2009 Contents 22 TEACHER DECEMBER 2009
lives of some boys. The high can also come
from drugs, drink, sex, food and danger-
ous activities. Reward-seeking activities are
fuelled by dopamine, with a result that these
activities are craved for time and time again.
The price paid for these highs, however, can
be the development of an infantile brain.
Of particular significance to the contem-
porary boy is evidence that electronic social
networking and a significant engagement
with video games and TV watching can also
promote an infantile brain.
The world of a video gamer is character-
istically filled with violence without empa-
thy and behaviou rs without consequences.
Little wonder that these qualities become
learned and transferred to the real world.
The video gamer is constantly bombarded
with pictures, sound bytes, changing images
and compelling action. How can the class-
room teacher compete? Armed with only
a whiteboard marker, the teacher is no
match for the visual armoury possessed by
the computer screen. Small wonder that the
number of boys being treated for attention
deficit disorder is growing dramatically.
Social networking, video gaming and
TV watching typically occupy a boy's life
more than the classroom does. The battle
of the real world against the virtual world
is being lost. The result may be a genera-
tion of boys who are displaying symptoms
of electronically-induced autism.
Is the increase in cyberbullying a prod-
uct of decreased empathy? Is 'twittering' a
regression to look-at-me behaviou r? Is the
action-packed virtual world of a contempo-
rary boy going to keep him from the real
world for the rest of his life?
It's easy to sensationalise this thesis
just as it's easy to dismiss it. The truth lies
somewhere in between sensationalism and
dismissal, and requires a boy to counteract
those activities which have little meaning
with activities that have great meaning.
How many boys have a worthy cause, a
charity, a calling in their life as well as a
computer, mobile phone and television?
The most frightening situation occurs
when there's an accumulation ofbraindead-
ening behaviours. It's difficult to believe
that an under-exercised, jelly-bellied video
gamer with an affection for junk food and
late nights is going to survive his childhood
without being mentally damaged.
When it is recognised that a typical boy
now engages in four to five hours of TV
watching, video gaming and electronic social
networking a day, teachers and parents need
to be concerned about the possibility of a
brain-damaged generation of children. Add
to this a desensitising to violence, since by
the age of 18 a boy will have watched about
20,000 murders, a premature sexualising,
since 12- to 22-year-old males are the big-
gest users of sex-chat lines, and exhaustion
due to social networking, since the peak use
of teenage networking isjust after midnight,
and the disaster is complete.
Quite literally, some of our students, but
boys in particular, are becoming mindless.
They will adopt lifestyles that damage their
neural pathways so that there are fewer
connections in the brain and a reduced effi-
ciency in its operation. The mindless brain
is typically consumed with wanting 'expe-
riences' and is often preoccupied with the
here and now. The mindful brain is typi-
cally consumed with wanting meaning and
is often preoccupied with thinking. The one
is infantile and the other is adult.
It's vital that we don't leave our students,
our children, to lifestyles that are character-
ised by brain-deadening experiences. They
must be readers of books as well as watch-
ers of screens. They must eat well, exercise
appropriately, sleep properly and be given
experiences that are not trivial. To fail in this
challenge is to condem n our students, boys
in particular, to perpetual childhood.
Dr Tim Hawkes is the principal of the
King's School, Sydney. This article draws on
material from Susan Greenfield's 'The quest
for ide ntity in the 21st Century' and Rich-
ard Leonard's 'Educ ating young people in
a media-saturated culture,' presented at the
12th Biennial Conference of the Associa-
tion of the Heads of Independent Schools of
Australia, held in Hobart in Septe mber.
Quite literally, some of
our students, but boys in
particular, are becoming
mindless. They will adopt
lifestyles that damage
their neural pathways
so that there are fewer
connections in the brain
and a reduced efficiency
in its operation.
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