KIDS AND THE NEWS
More than ever, kids witness innumerable, sometimes traumatizing,
information activities on TV. It appears that violent crime and terrible information are unabating.
Foreign wars, herbal screw-ups, terrorism, murders, incidents of infant abuse,
and scientific epidemics flood our newscasts daily. Not to mention the grim
wave of new school shootings.
All of this intrudes on the innocent world of kids. If, as psychologists
say, children are like sponges and take in everything that is going on around them,
how profoundly does watching TV news, in reality, affect them? How careful do
mother and father want to be in tracking the drift of information into the home, and the way can
Do they discover an approach that works?
To answer these questions, we grew to become a panel of pro anchors. Peter
Jennings, Maria Shriver, Linda Ellerbee, and Jane Pauley–each having confronted the
complexities of raising their personally prone children in a news-saturated
Picture this: 6:30 pm. After a tiring day at the workplace, Mom is busy
making dinner. She parks her nine- to 12-month-old daughter and five-year-old son in front
of the TV.
“Play Nintendo till dinner’s ready,” she instructs the little ones, who,
instead, begin flipping channels.
Tom Brokaw on “NBC News Tonight” proclaims that an Atlanta gunman
has killed his spouse, daughter, and son, all 3 with a hammer, before going on
a taking pictures rampage that leaves nine dead.
On CNN, there is a document about the earthquake in Turkey, with 2,000
human beings killed.
On the Discovery channel, there is a timely special on hurricanes and the
terror they invent in kids. Hurricane Dennis has already struck; Floyd is
Finally, they see a nearby news record approximately a roller-coaster twist of fate at a New. Jersey amusement park that kills a mother and her 8-year-vintage daughter.
Nintendo turned into never this riveting.
“Dinner’s equipped!” shouts Mom, unaware that her children can be terrified
by using this menacing potpourri of TV information.
What’s incorrect with this picture?
“There’s a LOT wrong with it, but it is not that without problems fixable,” notes Linda. Ellerbee, the creator and host of “Nick News,” the award-prevailing application geared for children aged 8-13, airing on Nickelodeon.
“Watching blood and gore on TV is NOT excellent for youngsters, and it does not do
a whole lot to enhance the lives of adults either,” says the anchor, who strives to
inform children about world activities without terrorizing them. “We’re into
stretching children’s brains, and there may be nothing we would not cover,” together with
recent applications on euthanasia, the Kosovo crisis, prayer in colleges, books–
banning, the demise penalty, and Sudan’s enslaved people.
But Ellerbee emphasizes the necessity of parental supervision, protecting
children from unfounded fears. “During the Oklahoma City bombing, there
have been terrible images of children being hurt and killed,” Ellerbee remembers. “Kids
wanted to understand if they had been secure in their beds. Studies conducted by using
Nickelodeon, we found out that kids locate the information on the scariest element
“Whether it is the Gulf War, the Clinton scandal, a downed jetliner, or what
happened in Littleton, you need to reassure your children, over and over once more,
that they are going to be OK–that the reason this story is News is that IT
Rarely HAPPENS. Information is the exception…No person is going to the air
thankfully and reviews how many planes landed appropriately!
“My process is to position the facts into an age-suitable context and lower
anxieties. Then it is up to the parents to display what their kids watch
and talk it to them.”
Yet a new take look at the role of media in the lives of kids performed with the aid of
the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation shows that ninety percent of the kingdom’s kids
a while, eight-18 are watching TV without their parent’s gift.
How does Ellerbee view the everyday state of affairs of the harried mom above?
“Mom’s taking a beating right here. Where’s Dad?” Ellerbee asks. Perhaps at paintings,
or residing one after the other from Mom, or absent altogether.
“Right. Most Moms and Dads are running as hard as they can because we
live in a society in which one income just doesn’t cut it anymore,”
NBC News correspondent Maria Shriver, the mother of four–Katherine,
13, Christina, 12, Patrick, 10, and Christopher, 6–have the same opinion as Ellerbee: “But
aren’t the usage of the TV as a babysitter because they are out getting manicures!”
says the 48-12 months-vintage anchor.
“Those mothers are suffering to make ends meet, and they do it because
they want to assist. I don’t suppose youngsters could be looking [as much TV] if their
dad and mom had been domestic organizing a football sport.
“When I want the TV as a babysitter,” says Shriver, who leaves special TV-
viewing commands behind while touring, “I placed on a safe video. My children have not watched “Pretty Woman” or “My Best Friend’s Wedding.”3,000 instances. I’d be extra anxious if they watched an hour of nearby News. That
could scare them. They would possibly experience: ‘Oh, my God, is anyone going to come back
in and shoot me in my bedroom?'”
In a pass to oversee her kids more intently since her husband,
Arnold Schwarzenegger became Governor, Shriver
scaled back her workload as a Contributing Anchor to Dateline NBC and installation
her office at home: “You can by no means be vigilant sufficient with your kids,” she
says, “because looking at violence on TV has a large impact on
youngsters–whether or not it is TV information, movies, or cartoons.”
This view is shared by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry states: “TV is an effective influence in developing fee
systems and shaping conduct…Studies discover that youngsters might also grow to be immune
to the horror of violence; progressively take delivery of violence as a way to clear up issues;
and lodge to anti-social and aggressive behavior, imitating the violence they
Although there are not any guidelines about looking at the TV in forty nine% of the nation’s
families, TV-watching at the Schwarzenegger home is nearly completely
“We have a blanket rule that my children do now not watch any TV in any respect at some point of the
week,” she notes, “and having a TV in their bedrooms has by no means been an
option. I have sufficient trouble getting them to do their homework!” she states
with a laugh. “Plus the half an hour of analyzing they ought to do every night.
According to the Kaiser survey, Shriver’s family is an obvious exception to
the rule of thumb. “Many children have their very own TVs, VCRs, and video video games in their
bedroom,” they look at notes. Moreover, kids 8-18 surely spend a
common three hours and 16 minutes watching TV every day, 44 minutes
studying, 31 minutes using a laptop, and 27 minutes gambling video games;
and a mere 13 minutes of usage of the Internet.
“My children,” Shriver explains, “get domestic at four p.M., have a 20-minute destroy,
then go right into homework or after-college sports. Then, I’m a big believer in
having family time for supper. Some of my fondest memories are of sitting at the
dinner table and being attentive to my parents, four brothers, and my grandmother,
Rose. We failed to watch the information.
“After dinner these days, we play a sport, then my children study. Their books. There’s no time in that day for any TV, except on weekends, while they can observe a Disney video, Sesame Street, Barney, The Brady. Bunch, or Pokemon.”
Beyond safe leisure, Shriver has removed the option of entirely
children looking at news occasions unfolding live on TV: “My youngsters,” she notes, “do
not watch any TV information, apart from Nick News,” as a substitute presenting her youngsters
with Time for Kids, [Teen Newsweek is also available], Highlights, and
newspaper clippings discussed over dinner.
“No difficulty should be off-limits,” Shriver concludes, “however you ought to clear out
the information for your kids.”
ABC’s Peter Jennings, who reigns over “World News Tonight,” the country’s
most-watched nighttime newscast, emphatically disagrees with a censored
technique to information-looking: “I even have kids–Elizabeth is now 24 and
Christopher is 21– and they had been allowed to watch a good deal TV news and
statistics each time they desired,” says the anchor. A company believer in
kids’ know-how of the sector around them, he tailored his bestselling ebook,
The Century, for youngsters a long time ten and older in The Century for Young People.
No drawback to children looking News? “I don’t know of any disadvantage, and I have an idea about it typically. I used to worry about my kids’ exposure to
violence and overt sex in the movies. Like most mothers and fathers, I discovered that although
they have been exposed to violence earlier than I would have favored, I do not feel
they have been tormented by it. The jury’s nonetheless out at the sex.
“I even have uncovered my youngsters to the violence of the world–to the bestiality of
man–from the very beginning, at age 6 or 7. I did not try to cover it. I was in no way
involved in putting a curtain between them and reality because I felt
my kids could be broken by way of being exposed to violence IF they
understood the context in which it came about. I would talk to my youngsters about the
vulnerability of youngsters in wartime–the truth that they’re innocent pawns–
and approximately what we ought to do as a family to make the arena a more nonviolent
Jennings firmly believes that coddling children is a mistake: “I’ve never talked down to my youngsters, or youngsters length. I usually talk UP to them, and
my newscast suits youngsters of any age.”
Yet the 65-year-old anchor regularly receives letters from irate dad and mom: “They’ll
say: ‘How dare you positioned that on at 6:30 while my kids are looking?’ My
answer is: ‘Madam, this is now not my hassle. That’s YOUR trouble. It’s
in reality as much as the parent to screen the waft of information into the home.”
Part of directing this float is popping it off altogether at mealtime, says
Jennings believes family dinners are sacrosanct. He is appalled that the
According to the Kaiser examination, TV has become one of the food courses in fifty-eight of the country’s households.
“Watching TV all through dinner is unforgivable,” he exclaims, explaining that
he constantly insisted that his family wait until he arrived home from anchoring
the News. “You’re darn right they waited…Even when my kids were tiny, they
by no means ate until 7:30 or 8 p.m. Then we might take a seat without a track and no TV. Why
waste this sort of golden opportunity? Watching TV at mealtime robs the family of
the dinner’s essence: communion and trade of thoughts. I mean,
God, if the dinner table is whatever, it is a place to examine manners and
appreciation for 2 of the finest things in lifestyles–food and drinks.”
Jennings is also unequivocal in his view of junk TV and believes parking
youngsters on the tube creates stupid minds: “I think using TV as a babysitter is horrible because the rattling television is very narcotic, drug-like. Mindless
TV makes for passive human beings–and it is a distraction from homework!
“My youngsters were allowed to watch simplest a half of an hour of leisure
TV per night–and that they never had TVs in their bedrooms. It’s an aware
desire I made as a parent not to tempt them…Too seductive…”
Adds Ellerbee: “TV is seductive and is supposed to be. The tough, clear reality is
when children watch TV, they’re no longer doing something else!”
Indeed, in line with the National Institute on Out-of-School Time and the
Office of Research Education Consumer Guide, the TV performs a larger function in
children’s lives now than ever. Kids watch TV from 14 to 22
hours in line with the week, which money owed for as a minimum of 25 percent of their lost time.
“Dateline NBC” Anchor Jane Pauley, intensely non-public, declined an interview
to speak about how she and her husband, cartoonist Garry Trudeau (“Doonesbury”)
manage TV-watching with their three teenagers, two of whom are fraternal twins.
But in a written response, she agreed that kids want to be better covered
from the onslaught of violence: “I turned into a vacationer at a public essential school
now not lengthy in the past, and changed into invited to peek in on a fourth-grade class on ‘current
events.’ The project had been to look at the information and write approximately one of
the tales. Two youngsters picked the fatal assault on a toddler through a pit bull, and the
different wrote about a child who’d hanged herself with a belt! They’d all watched
the worst blood and gore ‘ News at 11’ station in town. The teacher gave no
trace that she was as appalled as I was. My reaction turned into assisting the school get subscriptions to “Time for Kids” and “My Weekly Reader.” People want to be
higher news purchasers. And tabloid TV is very dangerous for youngsters.”
On this factor, Ellerbee readily concurs: “I do trust the primary
modification STOPS at your front door. You are the boss at home, and parents
have each right to display what their children watch. What’s even higher is
watching with them and starting conversations about what they see. If your
toddler is watching something extraordinarily violent, sit down and DEFUSE it. Talking
makes the ghosts run…And youngsters can smash via their scared emotions.”
“Kids,” she maintains, “realize approximately bad information–they’re looking to
spare us the horrific News from time to time. But children should be able to see that their
parents are both human enough to be deeply tormented by a tragedy like
Columbine, but additionally robust sufficient to get through it…And on with life. That is
the underpinning of their protection.”
“I’m no expert on the state’s children,” provides Jennings, ” but I’d have to say
no, it wasn’t stressful. Troubling, surprising, even devastating to some,
confusing to others, however traumatizing in that excellent experience, no.
“Would I explain to my youngsters that there are younger, disappointed, dissatisfied, depressed
children in the international? Yes. I hear the most horrendous stories about what’s going
on in excessive schools from my children. And due to the shootings, parents are
now on edge–pressuring educators to ‘do something.’ They have to be
reminded that the massive majority of all schools in America are overwhelmingly
secure,” a truth is borne out utilizing The National School Safety Center, which reports that
in l998 there have been simply 25 violent deaths in faculties as compared to an average of
50 inside the early ’90s.
Ellerbee adds that a figure’s capacity to concentrate is more critical than
lobbying college principals for greater steel detectors and armed guards: “If
there has been a case where the United States wasn’t listening to youngsters; it was
Littleton. First, don’t interrupt your child…Allow them to get the entire thought out.
Next, if you sit silently for a couple of seconds after they are completed, they will
begin speaking again, attending to a 2d degree of honesty. Third, attempt to be honest
with your kid. To tiny children, it’s right to say: ‘This is by no means going to
occur to you…’ But you don’t say that to a 10-yr-antique.”
Moreover, Ellerbee believes that media literacy starts offevolved the day parents prevent
pretending that if they ignore the TV, it’s going to depart. “Let your youngster recognize from the
beginning that they are SMARTER than TV: ‘I am in control of this box; it is not in control of me. I will use this field as a beneficial, powerful TOOL, but will
no longer be utilized by it.’ Kids recognize the difference.
“Watching TV,” Ellerbee continues, “can make kids greater civilized. I grew
up in the south of Texas in a family of bigoted humans. Watching TV made me
question my family’s ideals regarding the natural inferiority of humans of shade.
For me, TV was an actual window that broadened my global.”
Ironically, watching TV information is notably painful for Shriver while the
broadcast is set for you. Being a Kennedy, Shriver has lived a lifetime within the
glare of rumors and
televised speculation about her own family. Presenting the News to her kids
has consequently included explaining the tragedies and controversies of the
Kennedys have persisted. She was just eight years older while her uncle, President
John F. Kennedy was assassinated: “I grew up in a huge shadow…And I
couldn’t avoid it,” she admits. “It wasn’t a choker but a large
obligation that I do not need my children to experience.” Yet doesn’t her 15-
year marriage to megastar Schwarzenegger add but every other layer of public
curiosity near domestic? “My youngsters aren’t watching Entertainment Tonight–no,
no, by no means! And I do not carry them to movie openings or Planet Hollywood. I
think it’s quality for them to be proud of their father, however now not show off approximately him.”
How does she emotionally deal with the News while her family is in it? “That’s a line
I’ve been taking walks because of my childhood, and it’s virtually affected the sort
of reporter I’ve become. It’s made me much less competitive. I’m now not [in the news
business] to glorify myself at someone else’s expense; however, as a substitute to record a
story without destroying a person. A manufacturer might say: ‘Call
this person who is in a disastrous situation and ebook their right manner.’ And I’m
like: ‘Ahhhh. I can not even convey myself to do it,’ because I’ve been at the
other aspect and recognize the own family is in such ache.”
A few years in the past, of the route, the Kennedys skilled profound ache, yet
again, while Shriver’s cherished cousin, John F. Kennedy, Jr., was killed in an aircraft
crash with his spouse, Carolyn, and sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette. A blizzard of
information insurance ensued, unremitting for weeks. “I failed to watch any of it…I turned into
busy, ” Shriver says quietly. “And my kids did not watch any of it either.”
Shriver was, however, particularly organized to speak about the tragedy with her
kids. She is the author of the first-rate-promoting “What’s Heaven?” [Golden Books],
an ebook for kids ages 4-8, is the reason for death and losing a
loved one. “My youngsters knew John nicely because he spent Christmases with us. I
defined what happened to John as the information opened up… I Walked them through it as satisfactorily as I wanted. I reminded them that Mommy wrote the ebook and said:
‘We’re not going to look John anymore. He has gone to God…To heaven…And we
must pray for him, his sister [Caroline], and her children.”
Like Shriver, Jennings is uncomfortable masking
private tragedies in a public forum: “In my shop, I appear as one of those
folks who drag their feet plenty on the notion of masking the one’s things,” he
explains. “During the O.J. Simpson trial, I determined now not to go wild in our
coverage–and we took quite a smack and dropped from first to 2nd within the
rankings. TV is an enterprise, so we cover it while real corker of a tale like Princess Diana’s
demise comes alongside; I assume we are no longer afraid to do it. We’re responsible for
overkill, and with Diana, we celebrated something largely
transient, making Diana greater than she changed into. But audiences soar up!
“I opposed protecting John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s funeral because I did not want to do it. Even though others might say I was
wrong, he wasn’t a public parent. On-air, I stated: ‘I do not suppose the young Mr. Kennedy could approve of
all this excess…’ But we spent three hours at the funeral, and it became a great long history lesson about American politics and the Kennedy
dynasty’s area in our countrywide existence.
“Sometimes,” Jennings muses, “TV is sort of a chapel wherein we, as a state,
can accumulate to have a communal enjoy of loss. We did it with the
Challenger, greater these days with JFK Jr.’s loss of life, and we can do it rapidly, I
suspect, though I desire no longer, with Ronald Reagan. It’s not more exceptional than
what people did after going West in protected wagons in the final Century.
When tragedy struck, they accumulated the wagons around, lit the fireplace, and talked
about their losses of the day. And then went on. Television can be very
Lastly, Ellerbee contends that you cannot blame TV information manufacturers for
the human urge for food for sensational information insurance that often drags on for days
at a time:
“As a reporter,” she muses, “I have by no means been a struggle, site visitors accident, or
murder site that did not draw a crowd. There is a bit of trash in everybody. But the
identical individuals who stop to gawk at a visitor’s twist of fate may also climb down a nicely
to keep a toddler’s existence, or cry at sundown, or grin and tap their feet while the
the parade is going through.
“We are NOT simply one element. Kids can recognize those grays…Just as
there are a couple of solutions to a query; there may be more than one
component to you!”