Parents, please don’t fret if your child isn’t “gifted.” New research shows that many children are gifted in other ways that actually protect them better from violent media.
Let me begin by saying that I have never liked the term “gifted” when applied to children. First, it implies that the other 98% of kids are not somehow “gifted.” I have a child who has the gifted label, and one who doesn’t. To be labeled as gifted, children usually must score high enough on a particular intelligence test, such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale. But this term “gifted” does not apply to the myriad other ways in which our children are gifted—emotionally, socially, spiritually, and the list goes on. In fact, research shows that “general cohort” children may actually be more socially and emotionally resilient, traits that may serve to protect them better than their gifted counterparts against the effects of violent media.
New research in the journal Gifted Child Quarterly had both gifted and general cohort children watch either a nonviolent or a violent cartoon for about 10 minutes. Before and after watching their assigned cartoon, children completed a vocabulary test in which they were given a bunch of letters and were asked to write as many words as they could that started with each of the letters. Not surprisingly, gifted children created more words before they watched their assigned cartoon. But afterwards, gifted children performed no better—and in some cases performed worse—on the vocabulary test than general cohort children.
So what does this mean? The study’s authors suggest that gifted children may be more emotional sensitive. They may also have deficiencies in non-academic domains, such as emotional and social skills. So when they encounter violent media, gifted children may actually need more help from adults to help them make sense of the content and to return their minds to a state that is able to process and deal with the content. General cohort children appear to be able to do this a little bit better on their own.
Among parents in our society it seems like it’s a badge of honor to have a child who is “gifted.” But if we believe media exposure has even a moderate influence on our children—and it does—then doesn’t being able to deal with violent media well give a whole new meaning to the word gifted? In other words, all children have gifts. And all children have deficiencies. It is up to us as parents to recognize both—to praise and encourage their gifts, and to supplement their deficiencies, whatever they may be.