Should Parents let Children watch the News?

Recently my youngest son (8 years old) came home from school saying that the teacher wants them to watch the News on Television so they can talk about it in class.

Now normally I wouldn’t think anything of this as they do need to have some knowledge and interest in the world around them.

However I have become more and more aware of my own discomfort around my children watching the 6pm News. I like to have it on and find out what is going on in the world and in New Zealand. But I have found myself turning it off much more often lately due to the nature of what is being reported, and my own decision around what is appropriate for my youngest children. Oldest is Ok.

The threshold for what is OK to show and talk about on the news has risen a lot. Pictures of dead bodies, bombed people running, animals being bashed.

I have noticed that as the children watch or listen they can become quite concerned.

A few weeks ago we were watching the Paris terrorist attack news and my daughter became quite concerned about whether there was going to be a war in New Zealand and if the terrorists would come here. These are important questions for children and the need for reassurance is important.

The question is – should we let children watch these and answer their questions? And thereby learn about the world and it’s harshness.

Or should we shut it off and shield them from this awful stuff?

Another example happened not long after the Paris news. My youngest son was watching the news report on the terrible mistreatment of bobby calves by New Zealand dairy farmers. He got very upset and was crying. I was also very upset by what they showed. It was awful.

But a part of me thinks this is a little bit good for him, to be able to see such a report and develop an opinion, feelings and a voice around different issues.

Then – the News started reporting on sex attacks… I turned it off.

 

It got me wondering at the value of the News for children and how we as adults can help our children manage such knowledge and such distressing information.

It got me wondering about how we could as a country promote children to be inquisitive and develop their current affairs knowledge without overloading them with age inappropriate information that they don’t yet know how to process. Because let’s be honest, some of us adults don’t even know how to process it. Extra sensitive people being exposed to such horror can be difficult.

Is it OK for us to be hardened to it? To watch impassively while people’s lives get blown away, destroyed. Do we treat the News like a movie? As if it’s not real?

It is real, it is people’s lives, it is distressing and difficult to watch and hear sometimes.

 

I say let’s promote children’s News! At say 5pm a News programme developed to give information around current affairs in developmentally appropriate ways suitable for children aged 5 – 10/12years.

 

But in the meantime we don’t have this so we do at least have to monitor what they are watching. Watch together and when the newsreader says the warning about disturbing images…turn it off.

Generally, as inquisitive human beings we hear that warning and think “oh I wonder what those images are?” Much like when they give a tsunami warning and everyone rushes off to the beach to watch!

 

 

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