Television and kids? Let’s start with the news

“It’s a horror movie right there on my tv.

And it’s shocking me right out of my brain.”

Horror movie… Skyhooks.

Charlie has decided he wants to watch the news on television.

This is a pretty big deal for us, because nobody else in the house watches television news at all. Ever. When I was young, Roger Climpson on Channel Seven was our standard 6pm news broadcast and I’d kind of watch it while arguing with my brother or getting ready for dinner. However, it was a routine. It turns out watching television news, for me, was all about passive loyalty. A habit rather than a conscious decision.

When we moved to the US, where I knew none of the channels or presenters, watching the news was something of a novelty. But it wore off quickly and for more than the last two years now, nobody in this place watches the news on tv.

The fact my 10 year old wants to watch the news would be applauded by many. Yet I’m concerned. He understands the difference between obvious fiction and obvious reality. To him, the news is obvious reality.

He does not yet have a solid grasp of the detail of geography, different political and cultural issues, and ‘reasons’ given for wars and conflict that are reflected and alluded to in news reporting.

He is, however, passionate about the environment, respecting others, and doing ‘what’s right’.

I can already see a lot of extended conversations arising from him watching the news, and more of a problem is that I simply don’t have final answers.

So last night we sat down together to watch. (There was no way I’d let him watch the news on his own – Family Guy, yes, but not the news. And I hate Family Guy – I banned it, but this was recently overturned by a mutiny. Anyway, that’s another story.) After 15 minutes or so he turned to me and said “Mum, there’s a lot of bad stuff that goes on in the world today isn’t there? Was there this much when you were a kid?”

It was a good question. It might seem like there was less bad stuff, but maybe I was just not sensitive to the amount of it because it was just noise. It was routine. It was in the background of everyday life.

In the paper today, tales of war and of waste. But you turn right over to the tv page – Neil Finn, Don’t Dream It’s Over

Before long the news was finished and another news program began. Incredibly, with exactly the same stories of the previous program, just told by different reporters. When one of them used a trite throw-away pun sentence to lead into a story, it became too much for me. I told Charlie we were turning it off, and he didn’t mind at all.

I wonder if he’ll want to watch it again. I wonder if the stories will be different. I wonder if it’s possible to teach a child of this age that the full story can’t possibly be covered in a one minute, thirty second story – even if you follow that thread in tv news for the entire length of the situation (eg a war). He wants more answers than that. He wants news that’s relevant to him, that he can comprehend, that educates him. All our children deserve it.

Wouldn’t it be great if the major news stations created a version of news for younger viewers instead of the same level of reporting all the time?

3 comments

  • Ah the news. I stopped watching some time ago, feeling like your son and knowing that what we aren’t being told is likely even worse than what we’re hearing. It saddened me so that I turned in my news watching card for a silent boycott. Now, my 4 year old, very observant and intelligent, will catch glimpses or possibly watch in a meandering moment (if the hubs is watching), I can’t allow that to happen and therefore we don’t watch at all…she picks up on much more than a 4 year old can digest. Even the Today Show is off limits. Now *that* bummed me out.

  • Wow Gina, it scares me when we have to consider morning television as something that needs to be monitored as well, but you’re entirely right! Some of the jokes told on morning television are quite bawdy, and the news pieces are very confronting – not something for young children.

Leave a Reply