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Are we denying young people the joy of their own imagination?

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The most beautiful world is always entered through imagination. Helen Keller
Inspiring great descriptive writing

During my lesson prep recently, I found a great text from ‘House of Usher’ (Edgar Allen Poe). Full of atmospheric and spine-chilling imagery and description, and a superb example of gothic horror at its best, I was confident this text would inspire some great responsive descriptive writing in my students. Unfortunately, not! Although I did undoubtedly receive some well-structured and frankly terrifying pieces from some, most were largely unimpressed at Poe’s efforts to create the kind of ‘feet off the floor’ horror that they are used to.

This begs the question-are we desensitising our young people with the graphic offerings of modern media? And going even further, do the conclusions of ‘Bandura and the Bobo doll’ still hold true in the modern era? (https://www.smplypsychology.org/bobodoll.html)

Media such as television has an impact on behaviours

Bandura’s famous research-along with it’s shocking video footage, shows young children mimicking violent behaviours previously meted out by adults on a life-sized ‘bobo doll’. This research led to the believe that media such as television has an impact on behaviours of children in relation to what they are permitted to watch; in particular, violence. Subsequent research has even claimed that such viewing correlates with criminal behaviours and prison terms (American Psychological Association, Nov, 2013- https://www.apa.org/research/action).

However, when we examine current violence filled and horror films, not to mention immersive gaming with similar conventions, we could do well to ask whether we have swept all that under the table. Should we still be asking these questions, or at the very least, should we, as responsible parents, be considering the implications of allowing the desensitisation of our children to violence?

Imagining is mentally stimulating

At the very least, going back to my undoubtedly brilliant Edgar Allen Poe text, are we denying young people the joy of their own imagination? When we serve up gratuitous violence and horror on a plate, in an explosion of visual effects saturated in blood and gore, our young ones need only soak it up, rather than interpreting words and creating their own images in their head. Why is this important? The skill of imagining is mentally stimulating and improves brain connectivity. It leads to improved focus and concentration, and enhances analytical thinking skills, all of which are vital for life and employment. More recent research suggests that reading for pleasure can also increase empathy, reduce symptoms of depression and dementia, and builds our understanding of our own identity (https://readingagency.org.uk/news/blog/why-is-reading-for-pleasure-important.html).

By reducing other media and encouraging your child to read, not only as a tot but also through the teen years and into adulthood, you may be giving them more than you realised. You will be furnishing them with vital life-skills, not to mention making their English teacher very happy…

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