KIDS AND THE NEWS
More than ever, kids witness innumerable, sometimes traumatizing,
information activities on TV. It appears that violent crime and terrible information is unabating.
Foreign wars, herbal screw ups, terrorism, murders, incidents of infant abuse,
and scientific epidemics flood our newscasts daily. Not to say the grim
wave of new school shootings.
All of this intrudes at 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 have an effect on them? How careful do
mother and father want to be in tracking the drift of information into the home, and the way can
they discover an approach that works?
To answer these questions, we grew to become to a panel of pro anchors, Peter
Jennings, Maria Shriver, Linda Ellerbee, and Jane Pauley–each having confronted the
complexities of raising their personal prone children in a news-saturated
Picture this: 6:30 p.M. After a laborious day at the workplace, Mom is busy
making dinner. She parks her nine-12 months-old daughter and five-year-vintage son in the 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 “World News Tonight,” Peter Jennings reviews that a jumbo jetliner with
greater than three hundred passengers crashed in a spinning metallic fireball at a Hong Kong
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 news
application geared for children a while 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 with out terrorizing them. “We’re into
stretching children’ brains and there may be nothing we would not cowl,” together with
recent applications on euthanasia, the Kosovo crisis, prayer in colleges, book-
banning, the demise penalty, and Sudan slaves.
But Ellerbee emphasizes the necessity of parental supervision, protective
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 have been secure in their beds. In studies conducted by using
Nickelodeon, we found out that kids locate the information the most scary 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
ALMOST NEVER HAPPENS. News 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 definitely up to the parents to display what their kids watch
and talk it with them”
Yet a new take a look at of the role of media in the lives of kids performed with the aid of
the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation well-knownshows that ninety five% of the kingdom’s kids
a while eight-18 are watching TV without their parents 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–has the same opinion with 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 that they do it because
they want assist. I don’t suppose youngsters could be looking [as much TV] if their
dad and mom had been domestic organizing a hint 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. I do not thoughts
that my children have watched “Pretty Woman” or “My Best Friend’s Wedding”
3,000 instances. I’d be extra anxious in the event that 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 own kids greater intently since her husband,
Arnold Schwarzenegger, became Governor, Shriver
scaled back her workload as 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 violence on TV clearly has a large impact on
youngsters–whether or not it is TV information, movies, or cartoons.”
This view is shared through the American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry, which states: “”TV is a 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 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 of hour of analyzing they ought to do every night time.
According to the Kaiser survey, Shriver’s family is a obvious exception to
the rule of thumb. “Many children have their very own TV’s, VCR’s and video video games in their
bed room,” the look at notes. Moreover, kids a long time 8-18 surely spend an
common of three hours and 16 minutes watching TV every day; handiest 44 minutes
studying; 31 mins the usage of the laptop; 27 minutes gambling video games;
and a mere 13 minutes the 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 are in bed, studying
their books. There’s no time in that day for any TV, except on weekends, whilst
they’re allowed to observe a Disney video, Sesame Street, Barney, The Brady
Bunch, or Pokemon.”
Beyond safe leisure, Shriver has removed entirely the option of her
children looking 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 as a good deal TV news and
statistics each time they desired,” says the anchor. A company believer in
kids know-how the sector round them, he tailored his bestselling e book,
The Century, for youngsters a long time 10 and older in The Century for Young People.
No drawback to children looking news? “I don’t know of any disadvantage and I’ve
idea about it typically. I used to worry approximately my kids’ exposure to
violence and overt sex in the movies. Like most mother and father, 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 and cover it. I in no way
involved about putting a curtain between them and reality, because I in no way felt
my kids could be broken by way of being uncovered 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 non violent
Jennings firmly believes that coddling children is a mistake: “I’ve in no way
talked down to my youngsters, or to youngsters length. I usually talk UP to them and
my newscast is suitable for 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 whilst 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 meal-time, says
Jennings, who believes family dinners are sacrosanct. He is appalled that the
TV is grew to become on in the course of food in fifty eight% of the country’s households, this in accordance
to the Kaiser examine.
“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 pm. Then we might take a seat without a track, no TV. Why
waste the sort of golden opportunity? Watching TV at mealtime robs the family of
the essence of the dinner, that’s 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 the usage of TV as a babysitter is a
horrible idea 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 TV’s of their bedrooms.It’s a 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
that when children are watching TV, they’re no longer doing some thing else!”
Indeed, in line with the National Institute on Out-of-School Time and the
Office of Research Education Consumer Guide, TV performs a larger function in
children’s lives now than ever before. Kids watch TV a mean of14 to 22
hours in line with week, which money owed for as a minimum 25 percent of their loose 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 3 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 certainly 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 to assist 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 actually do trust the primary
modification STOPS at your front door. You are the boss at domestic and parents
have each right to display what their children watch. What’s even higher is
watching with them and starting up conversations about what they see.If your
toddler is watching some thing 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 the ones 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 give an explanation for to my youngsters that there are younger, disappointed, indignant, depressed
children in the international? Yes. I hear the maximum 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 borne out by means of 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 90’s.
Ellerbee adds that a figure’s capacity to concentrate is greater critical than
lobbying college principals for greater steel detectors and armed guards: “If
there has been ever a case where grown-united statesweren’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 very small 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 in case you ignore TV, it’s going to depart. “Let your youngster recognise from the
very starting that he or she is 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 makes kids greater civilized. I grew
up in the south of Texas in a family of bigoted humans. Watching TV made me
query my family’s ideals within the natural inferiority of humans of shade.
For me, TV was an actual window that broadened my global.”
Ironically, for Shriver, looking TV information is notably painful while the
broadcast is set you. Being a Kennedy, Shriver has lived a lifetime within the
glare of rumors and
televised speculation approximately her own family. Presenting the news to her kids
has consequently included explaining the tragedies and controversies the
Kennedys have persisted. She was just 8 years antique while her uncle, President
John F. Kennedy, became assassinated: “I grew up in a very big shadow…And I
couldn’t avoid it,” she admits. “It wasn’t a choker, but it was a large
obligation that I do not need my very own 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 news while her own family’s in it? “That’s a line
I’ve been taking walks because my own childhood, and it’s virtually effected 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 a person else’s expense, however as a substitute to record a
story without destroying a person in the process. A manufacturer might say: ‘Call
this person who is in a disastrous situation and e-book them 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 recognise the own family is in such ache.”
A few years in the past, of route, the Kennedys skilled profound ache, yet
again, whilst Shriver’s cherished cousin, John F. Kennedy, Jr., become killed in a 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],
a e book geared for kids a long time 4-8, and is the reason death and the loss of 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…Walked them thru
it as satisfactory I may want to. I reminded them that Mommy wrote the e-book and said:
‘We’re not going to look John anymore. He has gone to God…To heaven…And we
must pray for him and for his sister [Caroline] and her children.”
Like Shriver, Jennings is individually uncomfortable within the role of masking
private tragedies in a public forum: “In my shop, I’m appeared as one of those
folks who drags their ft plenty on the notion of masking the ones things,” he
explains. “During the O.J. Simpson trial, I determined now not to go crazy in our
coverage–and we took quite a smack and dropped from first to 2nd within the
rankings. TV is a enterprise, so whilst a real corker of a tale like Princess Diana’s
demise comes alongside, we cowl it. I assume we are afraid no longer to do it. We’re responsible of
overkill, and with Diana, we ended up celebrating something that was largely
ephemeral, making Diana greater than she changed into. But audiences soar up!
“I changed into definitely opposed to protecting John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s funeral, due to the fact I
saw no want to do it. He wasn’t a public parent, even though others might say I was
wrong. On-air, I stated: ‘I do not suppose the young Mr. Kennedy could approve of
all this excess…’ But we did three hours on the funeral and it became out to be
a great long history lesson approximately 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 tons exceptional than
what people did after they went West in protected wagons in the final century.
When tragedy struck, they accumulated the wagons round, lit the fireplace, and talked
approximately their losses of the day. And then went on. Television can be very
In last, 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 actually have by no means been a struggle, site visitors accident, or
murder site that did not draw a crowd. There is a bit trash in everybody. But the
identical individuals who stop to gawk at a visitors twist of fate, may also climb down a nicely
to keep a toddler’s existence, or cry at a sundown, or grin and tap their feet while the
parade is going through.
“We are NOT simply one element. Kids can recognize those grays…Just as
there’s a couple of solution to a query, there may be actually more than one
component to you!”