That’s what my slightly startled sister-in-law asked me at dinner recently, as the discussion at the table inevitably turned to the Aurora, Colorado shootings and the Penn State scandal. Knowing what news junkies my husband and I are, she was pretty shocked when I told her that I generally don’t listen to the news in the car when our 12-year-old is with me, and that I’m pretty quick on the remote if I’ve got the cable news on in the kitchen while I’m making dinner so that our daughter doesn’t hear certain details of some stories, or even learn about them — yet.
I don’t want to shield our daughter from everything. My husband and I both encourage her to read certain articles the newspaper and some weekly news magazines. We’re not so naive that we don’t realize that even in elementary school, she’s heard things about various news events from other kids who have more access to what’s going on in current events. And that will continue as she moves through middle school.
But news “coverage” is whole different animal today than it was even a decade ago. Stories like the Aurora shootings and child abuse scandals are on the cable news loop every few minutes, regardless of whether there’s anything new to report on those events. We’re a culture that’s bombarded with the most lurid of details in any story, even when they’re not always the most relevant.
So am I doing the right thing by trying to keep certain news reports from a soon-to-be seventh-grader? Or should I allow her carte blanche to the news of the day?
I know a lot of us have been trying to figure out when and how and what to discuss with children of certain ages about the horrific shootings in Aurora, Colorado. I’ve also been wondering whether the fact that those who died in the Colorado shootings were young movie-goers might prompt a rise in today’s so-called helicopter parenting. As we tried to figure out what, if anything, to share with our daughter about the news of the shootings, we took into account that she spent a lot of time at camp recently and was more focused on talking about the difference between a trot and a canter than she was about the news loop mom and dad were focused on. And as parents who just recently decided it was OK to let our daughter go to the movies by herself (sort of), are we burdening her with unnecessary anxiety to talk about what happened to the innocent victims at that first midnight show of The Dark Knight Rises?
We’ve had conversations with our daughter that so many of us do with our kids — that there are people who have guns who shouldn’t, that there is evil in the world we can’t do anything about, and what is and is not appropriate when it comes to adult relationships with children. We want to give our kids enough information at age appropriate times to keep them safe and to make sure they have the tools to make decisions that will keep them safe. But what roles does the never-ending, overly-sensational news cycle play in those conversations?
I distinctly remember watching the nightly news without any censorship when I was not much older than our daughter is now — I knew about the Vietnam War and the My Lai masscre. I knew that things didn’t seem quite so kosher with the Nixon administration when it came to the early Watergate stories. I watched the 1972 Olympic shootings unfold on television and I knew what the Manson family did. Somehow I didn’t feel more worried about the world as a whole or my safety in it.
So has the world changed so much since then that I have to worry about what terrible news of the world our daughter hears? Or has our 21st century version of news coverage made it almost impossible for our kids to learn about the scarier aspects of growing up?
What access to the news do your let your tweens have?
Read more from me at my place PunditMom and in my Amazon best-selling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America.(A great pre-2012 election read!)
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Image via Joanne Bamberger. All rights reserved.