The New China Etiquette - An e-publication by Chinese American Etiquette Association

The old saying: “When in Rome, do as the Romans” is not sufficient for bridging the communication gap and cultural differences between China and the US. The world operates in the climate of globalization with a constant need for cross-cultural communication. Chinese American Etiquette Association (CAEA) explores how interractions occur during a process of cultural adaptation between these two countries and cultures.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Do the ratings on movies, music, television shows and video games really matter?

by Richard Cohen, Vice President, Education of Childtime Learning Centers and Tutor Time Learning Centers.

Dear Families,

The answer to this question lies in understanding how our minds work, especially when we are children. Imagine that the human mind is like a computer or a filing cabinet. It organizes everything - every object, every person, every experience - from the moment we are born (perhaps, even before) into endless files within countless folders.

Our minds are designed to help us make sense of the world around us. They do this by creating folders (educators call them “schemas”). Imagine that every single thing you have encountered in your life is a folder in your head. For example you might have folders called “pencil,” ‘light,” “mom,” “dog,” “men,” “Aunt Sue,” “table” “red,” “three,” “Wyoming” and on and on. Each encounter you have provides new information to add to a folder. So, for example, in your “pencil” folder, you have gathered pieces of data over the years like “a pencil is for writing,” “most pencils are made of wood,” “I like pencils better than pens because they can erase my mistakes” and millions more, just about a minor topic like pencils.

Your mind does two important things with all that information – it sorts and it classifies. Sorting helps you differentiate between things so that, as a silly example, you do not mistakenly eat a pencil. Sorting helps you stop at a red light and go at a green light. Your mind also decides what is “normal” based, in part, on the amount of information sorted in each of your mental folders. In short, the more we experience something, the more normal it seems to us.

When young children are exposed to images of sex or violence before they are developmentally ready to understand them, they amass an unhealthy amount of information in these “folders” about what is normal. The result is that in contemporary society, disturbingly, we see so many young girls who want to dress like a teenager and so many little boys who seem obsessed with fighting and shooting.

So, please pay attention to ratings. Cognitively speaking, they matter very much. They help you to be aware of what your children are experiencing, what images they are seeing and to what music lyrics they are listening. Each of these adds up over time.

Most importantly, be aware of what you say and do around them. The information they get from watching and listening to you carries more weight than most any other. Fill your child’s mental folders with files about love, kindness, joy, fun, learning, responsibility and respect.

Next month, we will take a look at the other primary function of our minds - “classifying” or adding value judgements - as we explore another difficult cognitive question, “How do people learn to be sexist or racist?”

Until next time,

Richard Cohen, M.A.
Vice President, Education

P.S. If you would like to respond to anything you read, have parenting questions or child development topics that you’d like to see explored in future issues of this monthly newsletter, please E-mail me at I’d love to hear from you!

(Note: the article here is part one of "Understanding how your child’s mind works" and the part two "How do people learn to be sexist or racist?" will be in the CAEA April newsletter.)


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