This question is something that we have been dealing with lately in our family as our kids get older. Up to now we have generally not let our kids watch the news or the current affair type programs even to the point of muting ads for 60 Minutes etc when they appear during prime time viewing.
The news media has a super important job in our society keeping us up to date and ensuring accountability for those in positions of power. They also survive on ratings and advertising generally and so they tend to sensationalise things and the balance is overwhelmingly negative. There are many things on the news that any one of my children may not be ready to understand.
This may end up being a controversial post as most people have strong opinions about whether exposing their kids to things is positive or negative but I can tell you that we have looked at both sides. What we have found is that as parents, we almost always have to unpack and explain the news items which has a positive side however we are not always available to do it.
By not letting our kids watch much news though it also means that they are not as up to date with current events and that is a negative. In the playground they may not know the key public characters in some cases or understand even some major political or world events. We try to compensate as best as possible but its sometimes leaving gaps in understanding.
Of course news comes in many forms and we have found that print, online and radio seem to provide a middle ground where we can hear the latest without seeing un-helpful video etc
An Awesome Solution
The ABC thankfully still produce the amazing Behind The News (BTN) which presents the latest issues in an easily digestible and kid friendly format. How did I forget! We watched this in school when I was a kid.
They have a shorter daily show and also a great weekly summary show and I can’t over-emphasise how excellent they are. Even more amazingly there are over 10 years of archives online and you can even search the stories by any keyword to find info on all sorts of events and topics. This would be great for school research too.
I feel so stupid for forgetting that this exists and could help my kids so much!
Recently we have started allowing the kids to watch BTN each morning before school if they are ready to go. Its worked brilliantly as its engaging and educational without being too long so they can go to school already thinking and talking about some great topics.
Head over to BTN to check it out.
So what do you think? … should you let your kids watch the general news or cater to them with something special?