Tempering Media Access During Turbulent Times

Last week, our local media coverage were dominated by national student protests. It brought up some interesting conversation points around children and their access to news coverage, so it seems appropriate to share these guidelines.

Ignorance isn’t always possible
Simply put, you can’t ignore the news. Whether it’s because you watch the news every evening and, by virtue of that, your children do too, or you tune in to the radio on the way to school. Considering the rise of social media, and how young people now actively use these platforms, it can seem impossible to temper the barrage of information. And the news is not always pleasant but it’s important for children to have some knowledge of current affairs – especially school-going children.


Current Affairs
Using our recent student protests as an example, even though the majority of the protest actions were peaceful, some potentially disturbing scenes were broadcast. Similarly, the media coverage around xenophobic attacks earlier this year was upsetting to witness, even for adults. The global coverage of Japan’s 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami could not be ignored or skipped over. We watched as the disaster unfolded and waves swept in to the country – did our children watch too?

Cartoons and reality
So, if we’re protecting our children from watching violent cartoons, surely we should protect them from viewing violent or disturbing realities too? That’s up to you to consider, but if you’re watching coverage of a potentially turbulent event, make sure you’re watching it with your children, and haven’t left the news broadcast on in the lounge, while you’re in the kitchen.

Some Guidelines Around The News:

*Don’t assume that children are unaware of current events – the topic may be brought up in school, or their friends may be chatting about it on the playground.

*Be prepared to answer questions about the news – children’s natural instincts centre on learning, so be prepared to field questions and answer them as you can.

*Temper media access – if you’re aware of media coverage that you’d prefer your children not to view or have access to, then turn off the TV, or tune in to something else other than the news. Overexposure to a particular news story can be unsettling for children (and adults too!) so try not to make current affairs the sole focus of your day’s conversations. This is particularly true too for when your children may overhear adult conversations – be aware that, just because the kids are upstairs, doesn’t mean they can’t hear you.

*Limit access in an age-appropriate way – the younger your child, the less exposure to media coverage of potentially upsetting events they should have.

*Teaching critical thinking – there’s a unique opportunity for older children to learn about media bias and editorial decision-making when it comes to the news. For high school students, in particular, these can make for great case studies for presenting alternate views on a situation.

Further reading and resources for parents
1) http://www.bu.edu/card/files/2013/04/tips_for_parents_media_bombing_final1.pdf
2) http://mediasmarts.ca/tipsheet/helping-kids-cope-media-coverage-war-and-traumatic-events-tip-sheet

Cath Jenkin

As a mom, Cath raises her daughter with a strong focus on technology, as she believes that digital literacy is as important as learning to read. With a long history of creating content for online and print publications, and in particular as a parenting columnist, Cath brings her curious mind... Read more

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