Menage a Trois: Teen. Brain. Media.

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An article about teenage brains confirms what many parents have long suspected; teens may truly be out of their minds! Two articles about CSI remind us that media is part of their education during this volatile time! Might creative, thoughtful artists produce media that would heal and help in transitional teenage times?

First, the teenage brain. New research concludes, “The picture that’s emerging is a teen brain not merely awash in a brief tide of hormones but also in the middle of a tumultuous overhaul.”

I am not an advocate of neurological determinism. Teenagers still bear responsibility for their actions. However, knowing a teen’s neurology is in transition means we need to show great care about the “environment” enfolding the period of change. Teens need loving, stable homes and a supportive village of concerned friends: neighbors, schools, family friends, church, extra-curricular activities and media inputs should calm, not enflame the teen during this period.

The environment I’m describing is, of course, exactly the opposite of what today’s teen experiences with family stress, tension-filled schools, isolated neighbors, regular reports of sexual predators and media content that throws gasoline on a lit-flame. That media educates was demonstrated in two articles this week about the popular show CSI.

One showed how CSI is affecting juries by instilling unrealistic expectations for conclusive forensic evidence. “The justice system is facing what legal experts call “the CSI effect,” a TV-bred demand by jurors for high-tech, indisputable forensic evidence before they will convict.”¢â‚¬¦ “The problem is that many cases have little forensic evidence,” said Michael Asimow, a UCLA law professor who teaches a course on law and popular culture. “Shows like ‘CSI’ are teaching people that without forensic evidence, you can’t convict anybody,” Asimow said.

One reason there is no forensic evidence is that CSI actually teaches criminals how to avoid detection! “When Tammy Klein began investigating crime scenes eight years ago, it was virtually unheard of for a killer to use bleach to clean up a bloody mess. Today, the use of bleach, which destroys DNA, is not unusual in a planned homicide, said the senior criminalist from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Klein and other experts attribute such sophistication to TV crime dramas such as “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” which give criminals helpful tips on how to cover up evidence. Prosecutors have complained for years about “the CSI effect” on juries: an expectation in every trial for high-tech forensic evidence. It also appears the popular show and its two spinoffs could be affecting how some crimes are committed. “They’re actually educating these potential killers even more,” said Capt. Ray Peavy, also of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and head of the homicide division. “Sometimes I believe it may even encourage them when they see how simple it is to get away with on television.”

I am not a media basher and I don’t blame the entertainment media alone for our societal woes. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a systemic meltdown to mess up teen culture as completely as we have.

I do think our knowledge about teen development and the importance and influence of the media environment creates a huge opportunity for creatives to feed positive, constructive content into the stream. This year’s academy award best picture nominees are films that explore tough issues, and were for the most part aimed at adult audiences. They explore grey not black and white and they offer no answers.

What kind of films would help a teen through the destabilizing, tumultuous transitions of youth? A word to the artists among us: Figure it out and make them.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in February 1, 2006 by | No Comments »

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