Saturday, January 31, 2009
How to talk to your children about the news
As adults, we depend on "The News" as our primary source for information about the world we live in. Whether it's the local newspaper, nightly TV newscasts, cable news networks, news radio, or Web sites, graphic footage and accounts of the latest happenings in the world are being delivered right into our homes 24 hours a day. This constant barrage can be overwhelming for adults, but it can be especially confusing and frightening for young children.
Many adults do not realize how many kids actually watch TV news or read the newspaper. In addition, consider the opportunities kids have to be exposed to the news. Maybe you listen to news radio in the morning while you drive the kids to school. Perhaps you read the newspaper at the breakfast table. Remember, while you're reading an article on page seven, your kids may be staring at the front page headlines. You might watch the evening news while helping your kids with their homework. Or they may be exposed to a "newsflash" during their favorite sit-com. Even if you avoid exposing your kids to the news, they still get the latest news accounts from their peers.
It's no wonder the news can be enticing to children. The average news broadcast contains as much violence, sex and action as many of the most popular entertainment shows on TV. But unlike those shows, the news is real. News shows can show or say things that might be too graphic or intense for entertainment programs. During the recent White House scandal for example, the phrase "oral sex" was commonplace throughout the news media.
As a parent, only you can decide what news is appropriate for your children. Used properly, the news can teach children many positive things about the world. Knowledge and understanding of news events can teach kids a sense of belonging and social responsibility. Most elementary school teachers require kids to follow certain news stories for weekly current events lessons. Additionally, many literacy programs encourage parents and kids to read the newspaper together to develop language skills and healthy reading habits.
At the same time, the daily news can perpetuate stereotypes, confuse, anger and even frighten children. By talking with our kids early and often about the stories and images they are exposed to by the news and other media, we can help them better understand the world around them. This communication can be especially valuable when kids are exposed to tough issues like violence, sex, drugs and alcohol, death and divorce.
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