KIDS AND THE NEWS
More than ever, youngsters witness innumerable, on occasion traumatizing,
news activities on TV. It appears that violent crime and awful news is unabating.
Foreign wars, natural disasters, terrorism, murders, incidents of child abuse,
and clinical epidemics flood our newscasts daily. Not to say the bleak
wave of recent college shootings.
All of this intrudes at the harmless international of youngsters. If, as psychologists
say, youngsters are like sponges and soak up the whole thing that goes on round them,
how profoundly does watching TV information virtually have an effect on them? How cautious do
parents need to be in tracking the flow of news into the home, and how can
they find an technique that works?
To solution these questions, we became to a panel of seasoned anchors, Peter
Jennings, Maria Shriver, Linda Ellerbee, and Jane Pauley–every having faced the
complexities of elevating their personal prone children in a news-saturated
Picture this: 6:30 p.M. After an onerous day at the workplace, Mom is busy
making dinner. She parks her nine-year-antique daughter and 5-yr-vintage son in the front
of the TV.
“Play Nintendo until dinner’s equipped,” she instructs the toddlers, who,
as a substitute, start flipping channels.
Tom Brokaw on “NBC News Tonight,” pronounces that an Atlanta gunman
has killed his wife, daughter and son, all three with a hammer, earlier than occurring
a capturing rampage that leaves nine lifeless.
On “World News Tonight,” Peter Jennings reports that a jumbo jetliner with
greater than 300 passengers crashed in a spinning steel fireball at a Hong Kong
On CNN, there may be a file approximately the earthquake in Turkey, with 2,000
human beings killed.
On the Discovery channel, there may be a timely unique on hurricanes and the
terror they devise in youngsters. Hurricane Dennis has already struck, Floyd is
Finally, they see a local information record about a roller coaster coincidence at a New
Jersey amusement park that kills a mom and her 8-12 months-antique daughter.
Nintendo was never this riveting.
“Dinner’s geared up!” shouts Mom, unaware that her kids can be terrified
with the aid of this menacing potpourri of TV news.
What’s wrong with this photograph?
“There’s a LOT incorrect with it, but it’s no longer that effortlessly fixable,” notes Linda
Ellerbee, the author and host of “Nick News,” the award-winning news
software geared for youngsters a while 8-13, airing on Nickelodeon.
“Watching blood and gore on TV is NOT good for youngsters and it does not do
lots to enhance the lives of adults either,” says the anchor, who strives to
tell children approximately international events without terrorizing them. “We’re into
stretching children’ brains and there’s not anything we would not cowl,” along with
current programs on euthanasia, the Kosovo disaster, prayer in colleges, ebook-
banning, the demise penalty, and Sudan slaves.
But Ellerbee emphasizes the necessity of parental supervision, defensive
youngsters from unfounded fears. “During the Oklahoma City bombing, there
have been terrible pictures of kids being harm and killed,” Ellerbee recollects. “Kids
desired to recognize if they had been secure of their beds. In studies performed by way of
Nickelodeon, we discovered out that children locate the information the most horrifying element
“Whether it’s the Gulf War, the Clinton scandal, a downed jetliner, or what
befell in Littleton, you have to reassure your kids, time and again again,
that they’re going to be OK–that the purpose this story is information is that IT
ALMOST NEVER HAPPENS. News is the exception…No one is going at the air
thankfully and reports what number of planes landed accurately!
“My task is to position the records into an age-appropriate context and decrease
anxieties. Then it is actually as much as the mother and father to reveal what their children watch
and discuss it with them”
Yet a new look at of the role of media inside the lives of youngsters conducted by
the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation well-knownshows that 95% of the nation’s children
a while 8-18 are looking TV without their dad and mom gift.
How does Ellerbee view the standard state of affairs of the harried mom above?
“Mom’s taking a beating right here. Where’s Dad?” Ellerbee asks.Perhaps at work,
or living one after the other from Mom, or absent altogether.
“Right. Most Moms and Dads are working as tough as they can because we
stay in a society wherein one income just would not reduce it anymore,”
NBC News correspondent Maria Shriver, the mother of four–Katherine,
13, Christina, 12, Patrick, 10, and Christopher, 6–consents with Ellerbee: “But
are not the usage of the TV as a babysitter due to the fact they are out getting manicures!”
says the forty eight-yr-antique anchor.
“Those mothers are suffering to make ends meet and they do it because
they want help. I do not assume children might be watching [as much TV] if their
parents have been home organizing a hint soccer sport.
“When I need the TV as a babysitter,” says Shriver, who leaves specified TV-
viewing commands behind when traveling, “I placed on a secure video. I do not thoughts
that my youngsters have watched “Pretty Woman” or “My Best Friend’s Wedding”
three,000 instances. I’d be more frightened in the event that they watched an hour of local information.That
could scare them. They would possibly sense: ‘Oh, my God, is someone going to come back
in and shoot me in my bedroom?'”
In a flow to supervise her personal children extra carefully considering the fact that her husband,
Arnold Schwarzenegger, have become Governor, Shriver
scaled lower back her workload as Contributing Anchor to Dateline NBC and installation
her office at domestic: “You can in no way be vigilant enough with your kids,” she
says, “because watching violence on TV honestly has a huge impact on
youngsters–whether it’s TV information, films, or cartoons.”
This view is shared through the American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry, which states: “”TV is a powerful influence in developing price
structures and shaping conduct…Research locate that kids can also emerge as immune
to the horror of violence; progressively be given violence as a way to clear up troubles;
and motel to anti-social and aggressive conduct, imitating the violence they
take a look at.”
Although there aren’t any guidelines about watching TV in forty nine% of the kingdom’s
households, TV-looking at the Schwarzenegger domestic is nearly definitely
“We have a blanket rule that my youngsters do now not watch any TV in any respect at some stage in the
week,” she notes, “and having a TV in their bedrooms has in no way been an
choice. I have enough problem getting them to do their homework!” she states
with amusing. “Plus the half hour of analyzing they should do each night.
According to the Kaiser survey, Shriver’s household is a obtrusive exception to
the rule of thumb. “Many kids have their own TV’s, VCR’s and video video games in their
bed room,” the look at notes. Moreover, youngsters ages 8-18 clearly spend an
common of three hours and 16 mins watching TV day by day; most effective forty four mins
studying; 31 minutes using the computer; 27 minutes gambling video games;
and a mere thirteen minutes the use of the Internet.
“My youngsters,” Shriver explains, “get home at 4 p.M., have a 20-minute ruin,
then pass right into homework or after-faculty sports. Then, I’m a massive believer in
having family time for dinner. Some of my fondest recollections are of sitting on the
dinner table and being attentive to my mother and father, four brothers, and my grandmother,
Rose. We did not watch the information.
“After dinner these days, we play a game, then my kids are in mattress, studying
their books. There’s no time in that day for any TV, besides on weekends, while
they’re allowed to watch a Disney video, Sesame Street, Barney, The Brady
Bunch, or Pokemon.”
Beyond secure entertainment, Shriver has eliminated entirely the option of her
children looking information occasions unfolding live on TV: “My children,” she notes, “do
not watch any TV news, apart from Nick News,” instead providing her youngsters
with Time for Kids, [Teen Newsweek is also available], Highlights, and
newspaper clippings mentioned over dinner.
“No situation must be off-limits,” Shriver concludes, “however you have to filter out
the information on your children.”
ABC’s Peter Jennings, who reigns over “World News Tonight,” the state’s
most-watched night newscast, emphatically disagrees with a censored
method to information-watching: “I actually have two youngsters–Elizabeth is now 24 and
Christopher is 21– and that they had been allowed to look at as a good deal TV news and
statistics every time they wanted,” says the anchor. A company believer in
kids understanding the world round them, he tailored his bestselling ebook,
The Century, for youngsters ages 10 and older in The Century for Young People.
No disadvantage to youngsters looking news? “I do not know of any disadvantage and I’ve
concept about it commonly. I used to fear approximately my youngsters’ publicity to
violence and overt intercourse in the movies. Like most mother and father, I discovered that even though
they were exposed to violence earlier than I might have preferred, I don’t feel
they have got been affected by it. The jury’s nevertheless out at the intercourse.
“I actually have uncovered my children to the violence of the sector–to the bestiality of
guy–from the very starting, at age 6 or 7. I failed to try to cover it. I in no way
concerned about setting a curtain among them and reality, due to the fact I by no means felt
my youngsters could be damaged with the aid of being uncovered to violence IF they
understood the context in which it came about. I might communicate to my children about the
vulnerability of kids in wartime–the truth that they’re innocent pawns–
and about what we ought to do as a family to make the world a extra non violent
Jennings firmly believes that coddling youngsters is a mistake: “I’ve never
talked down to my children, or to kids length. I constantly communicate UP to them and
my newscast is appropriate for children of any age.”
Yet the sixty five-yr-antique anchor frequently receives letters from irate parents: “They’ll
say: ‘How dare you positioned that on at 6:30 when my youngsters are watching?’ My
solution is: ‘Madam, it truly is now not my trouble. That’s YOUR problem. It’s
virtually as much as the determine to monitor the waft of information into the house.”
Part of directing this waft is popping it off altogether at meal-time, says
Jennings, who believes own family dinners are sacrosanct. He is appalled that the
TV is turned on during food in 58% of the kingdom’s families, this according
to the Kaiser take a look at.
“Watching TV at some stage in dinner is unforgivable,” he exclaims, explaining that
he always insisted that his own family wait until he arrived home from anchoring
the information. “You’re darn proper they waited…Even if my children have been tiny, they
never ate until 7:30 or eight pm. Then we might sit with out a track, no TV. Why
waste any such golden opportunity? Watching TV at mealtime robs the circle of relatives of
the essence of the dinner, that is communion and change of thoughts. I imply,
God, if the dinner desk is anything, it’s an area to learn manners and
appreciation for 2 of the best matters in existence–food and drinks.”
Jennings is likewise unequivocal in his view of junk TV and believes parking
kids on the tube creates stupid minds: “I think the use of TV as a babysitter is a
horrible concept due to the fact the rattling tv is very narcotic, drug-like. Mindless
TV makes for passive humans–and it is a distraction from homework!
“My kids were allowed to observe simplest a half an hour of entertainment
TV according to night time–and they by no means had TV’s of their bedrooms.It’s a conscious
desire I made as a figure no longer to tempt them…Too seductive…”
Adds Ellerbee: “TV is seductive and is supposed to be. The difficult, clean reality is
that once children are looking TV, they are not doing something else!”
Indeed, in keeping with the National Institute on Out-of-School Time and the
Office of Research Education Consumer Guide, TV plays a larger role in
kid’s lives now than ever before. Kids watch TV an average of14 to 22
hours per week, which debts for at least 25 percentage in their loose time.
“Dateline NBC” Anchor Jane Pauley, intensely private, declined an interview
to talk about how she and her husband, cartoonist Garry Trudeau (“Doonesbury”)
cope with TV-looking with their three teenagers, of whom are fraternal twins.
But in a written reaction, she agreed that children want to be higher protected
from the onslaught of violence: “I become a vacationer at a public essential school
no longer long ago, and was invited to peek in on a fourth-grade class on ‘cutting-edge
events.’ The task were to look at the news and write about one among
the tales. Two kids picked the fatal attack on a baby via 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 on the town. The teacher gave no
trace that she become as appalled as I turned into. My reaction was to help the school get
subscriptions to “Time for Kids” and “My Weekly Reader.” People want to be
higher information clients. And tabloid TV could be very dangerous for kids.”
On this point, Ellerbee easily consents:”I sincerely do accept as true with the primary
amendment STOPS at your front door. You are the boss at domestic and dad and mom
have every proper to reveal what their children watch. What’s even higher is
watching with them and starting up conversations about what they see.If your
baby is looking something terribly violent, sit down down and DEFUSE it. Talking
makes the ghosts run…And children can destroy via their scared emotions.”
“Kids,” she maintains, “know approximately terrible news–they may be those trying to
spare us the bad information from time to time. But youngsters should be able to see that their
parents are both human enough to be deeply suffering from a tragedy like
Columbine, but also strong enough to get via it…And on with life. That is
the underpinning in their protection.”
“I’m no expert on the country’s youngsters,” adds Jennings, ” however I’d have to mention
no, it wasn’t stressful. Troubling, shocking, even devastating to a few,
perplexing to others, however traumatizing in that remarkable feel, no.
“Would I give an explanation for to my children that there are young, disenchanted, angry, depressed
kids inside the international? Yes. I listen the maximum horrendous memories about what is going on
on in excessive schools from my youngsters. And because of the shootings, dad and mom are
now on part–pressuring educators to ‘do something.’ They ought to be
reminded that the substantial majority of all schools in America are overwhelmingly
secure,” a fact borne out by means of The National School Safety Center, which reports that
in l998 there have been simply 25 violent deaths in colleges in comparison to an average of
50 in the early 90’s.
Ellerbee provides that a figure’s capability to pay attention is more important than
lobbying school principals for extra metallic detectors and armed guards: “If
there was ever a case in which grown-americaweren’t paying attention to children, it become
Littleton. First, don’t interrupt your infant…Allow them to get the entire thought out.
Next, in case you sit silently for more than one seconds after they’re finished, they will
begin speakme once more, getting to a second level of honesty. Third, try and be honest
with your child. To very small children, it’s proper to mention: ‘This is by no means going to
take place to you…’ But you do not say that to a 10-year-antique.”
Moreover, Ellerbee believes that media literacy begins the day parents stop
pretending that in case you ignore TV, it’s going to depart. “Let your youngster understand from the
very beginning that she or he is SMARTER than TV: ‘I am in control of this container,
it isn’t on top of things of me. I will use this field as a beneficial, powerful TOOL, however will
now not be utilized by it.’ Kids know the difference.
“Watching TV,” Ellerbee keeps, “can makes children extra civilized. I grew
up inside the south of Texas in a own family of bigoted people. Watching TV made me
question my own family’s beliefs within the herbal inferiority of people of shade.
For me, TV turned into a actual window that broadened my global.”
Ironically, for Shriver, looking TV information is distinctly painful when the
broadcast is set you. Being a Kennedy, Shriver has lived an entire life in the
glare of rumors and
televised hypothesis about her circle of relatives. Presenting the information to her children
has consequently included explaining the tragedies and controversies the
Kennedys have endured. She changed into just eight years antique whilst her uncle, President
John F. Kennedy, turned into assassinated: “I grew up in a very large shadow…And I
couldn’t avoid it,” she admits. “It wasn’t a choker, but it was a huge
responsibility that I don’t need my own youngsters to sense.” Yet would not her 15-
12 months marriage to megastar Schwarzenegger upload yet some other layer of public
curiosity close to home? “My youngsters aren’t looking Entertainment Tonight–no,
no, never! And I don’t carry them to movie openings or Planet Hollywood. I
suppose it is pleasant for them to be pleased with their father, however no longer show off about him.”
How does she emotionally deal with information when her circle of relatives’s in it? “That’s a line
I’ve been taking walks due to the fact that my very own childhood, and it is honestly effected the sort
of reporter I’ve end up. It’s made me less aggressive. I’m now not [in the news
business] to glorify myself at someone else’s expense, but rather to report a
story with out destroying someone in the system. A manufacturer may say: ‘Call
this person who is in a disastrous situation and e book them right manner.’ And I’m
like: ‘Ahhhh. I cannot even carry myself to do it,’ because I’ve been on the
different facet and recognise the family is in such pain.”
A few years in the past, of course, the Kennedys experienced profound pain, but
once more, whilst Shriver’s cherished cousin, John F. Kennedy, Jr., become killed in a plane
crash, along with his spouse, Carolyn, and sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette. A snowstorm of
information insurance ensued, unremitting for weeks. “I did not watch any of it…I was
busy, ” Shriver says quietly. “And my children did not watch any of it either.”
Shriver changed into, but, truly prepared to talk about the tragedy together with her
children. She is the writer of the first-class-promoting “What’s Heaven?” [Golden Books],
a e-book geared for kids ages four-8, which explains demise and the lack of a
cherished one. “My children knew John nicely because he spent Christmases with us. I
defined what happened to John as the information spread out…Walked them via
it as nice I ought to. I reminded them that Mommy wrote the book and said:
‘We’re not going to look John anymore. He has long gone to God…To heaven…And we
have to pray for him and for his sister [Caroline] and her youngsters.”
Like Shriver, Jennings is personally uncomfortable inside the position of overlaying
private tragedies in a public discussion board: “In my keep, I’m regarded as one of those
folks that drags their toes plenty at the notion of covering the ones matters,” he
explains. “During the O.J. Simpson trial, I decided not to head loopy in our
coverage–and we took pretty a smack and dropped from first to second in the
rankings. TV is a commercial enterprise, so while a actual corker of a story like Princess Diana’s
demise comes alongside, we cover it. I assume we’re afraid no longer to do it. We’re guilty of
overkill, and with Diana, we ended up celebrating something that turned into in large part
ephemeral, making Diana greater than she became. But audiences leap up!
“I became definitely against covering John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s funeral, due to the fact I
noticed no need to do it. He wasn’t a public discern, even though others would say I became
incorrect. On-air, I said: ‘I don’t think the younger Mr. Kennedy would approve of
all this excess…’ But we did 3 hours at the funeral and it became out to be
a outstanding lengthy records lesson about American politics and the Kennedy
dynasty’s region in our countrywide lifestyles.