How Does the News Affect Your Grandchildren?
Kids are exposed to the news via television, radio, newspapers,
and the internet.
Learn how to protect them.
Adults depend upon a 24-hour barrage of news. Television, radio, newspapers, or the internet act as a necessary link to the world for adults, but many children find the process and the adult reaction both confusing and frightening. Most adults don't realize just how much exposure children get to the news, even if parents try to shelter them. According to Children Now research, 40% of children report watching television news and news magazine programs almost daily--and more than half of kids reported feeling angry, sad, or depressed after watching the news.
While the news can teach children many positive things about the world, at the same time it can confuse and frighten young children. Talking with kids about the stories and images they are exposed to is necessary for them to understand the world.
What is the best way to talk about the news with kids?
Emphasize the Ordinary
Always emphasize that news reports focus on the unusual and extraordinary. While the evening news never covers the thousands of plane flights that take-off and land safely each day, a crash will be headline news. Many young children do not understand that most news-worthy events are infrequent events.
Fill in the Holes
Remind kids that the news often leaves out important details and background information. The two-minute segments on TV news barely cover the basics, leaving little time to explore the background, context, or explanation of the event. Considering that the average newspaper article is just 400 words, many kids have not yet developed an adult's "read between the lines" skills.
What is the best way to monitor news intake?
Make an effort to watch and read news with kids. This way, you will know exactly what your grandchild is being exposed to. Preschool age children have a limited ability to discern the difference between reality and fantasy; caution should be used when exposing them to any type of news. Elementary school children are vulnerable to what news they see, hear, or read. While they understand the difference between fantasy and reality, they lack adult perspective on news events. Adolescents have developed a greater media perspective, but constant exposure to news sources can lead to confusion and conflicting messages.
Always discuss disturbing events with your grandchildren. The news allows a forum to discuss tough issues, as well as any anxieties that the child might have. Feel free to share your own feelings about the news as an opportunity to teach right vs. wrong.
Recognize the complexity of the news. Kids will ask tough questions about our complex world, and it's important that kids understand that even the most informed politician isn't aware of all world happenings.
Monitor Your Grandchildren
Don't be afraid to turn off the TV or switch channels if a news story is disturbingly graphic or contains a mature theme. Certainly there is nothing wrong with stating, "I really don't want to watch this...let's do something else.”
Finally, utilize kid-friendly news sources. Exposing kids to current events is great, as long as the presentation is age-appropriate. Try these websites for news appropriate for younger children:
Time Magazine for Kids:
Lauren Teegarden, a high school senior, lives in Portland, Oregon. With grandparents of her own, Lauren recognized the value of strong grandparent-grandchild interactions and started "The Grandparent Connection," a free monthly email newsletter with articles, advice, and activities for grandparents. Visit her website, www.thegrandparentconnection.org, to sign up for the newsletter.