Many people enjoy reveling in the darker corners of out society. However, there needs to be a line where children are shielded from the adult world. Perhaps, just perhaps, conspiracy theories could be something that kids aren’t ready to experience.
Alex Jones, the man behind the far-right media organization InfoWars, may be America’s most prominent conspiracist. He has claimed, at various points, that the government staged the murders of children at Sandy Hook to garner support for gun laws, that the U.S. has a weapon that can steer tornadoes, and that Bill Gates is attempting to wipe out minorities. His theories and theatrics reach a massive audience, but the question at the core of the current custody battle between him and his wife is what effect they’ve had on his two daughters. Lawyers have sought to prove that exposure to conspiratorial thinking and easily disproved theories can be injurious to children. According to Dr. Brian Johnson and Dr. Laurie Berdahl, that may be the hard truth.
“Even if kids can’t understand the words, they can understand tone and the way their parents are talking,” says Johnson, who co-authored Warning Signs: How to Protect Your Kids from Becoming Victims or Perpetrators of Violence with Berdahl. “If their parents are becoming agitated by what they’re seeing or hearing it could create a reaction that’s potentially harmful.”
This is largely due to the fact that a child’s brain is still developing the tools it needs to separate fact from fiction. This continues well into the late teen years. For the same reason young children are prone to believing in the Easter Bunny, they’re open to the idea that 9/11 was an inside job. “Kids will believe anything an adult tells them. Particularly a trusted adult,” says Johnson.
“Children don’t have the cognitive resources yet to process information in a healthy way,” says Berdahl. “And studies show they are not good at all in assessing the credibility of that information.”
But the danger truly begins when that information starts to sew paranoia in the home. Conspiracy theories are made to destabilize. The belief that pure malevolence has infiltrated…