Fact and Fiction

Leher  Kala

Filtering the news for children

On a Saturday morning, we wake to the horrific news of 20 children massacred in an insane rampage in a school in the US, and of another 18 children injured in a knife attack in China. While we adults have a hard time comprehending such senseless tragedies, try explaining the reasons to a curious 10-year-old.

Surrounded, as most of us are, by newspapers and magazines of all types the contents of which are all pretty disturbing I've often wondered how does one expose all the interesting news to kids, while keeping out the violent, potentially frightening stuff. And whether we should be screening the scary images anyway. Indian newspapers, especially, have a rape, molestation and child abuse headline every single day in some part of the paper. I wonder why they don't just create a separate page titled "violence in the country" or some such heading, so for those of us jaded by reading the same depressing snippets everyday, can skip the page with ease. Children understand much more than we give them credit for. My nine-year-old son gets The Mentalist, a police drama about a psychic reading people's minds. Probably not ideal viewing for a child, but parents need to relax too and it's very difficult to shield your children from creepy shows, if you enjoy watching them. On the other hand, violence, natural disasters and war are part of human existence and though it's all extremely confusing to a young person, a pre-teen is old enough to know about it.

Newspapers, I firmly believe, offer great perspective and are a positive educational experience for kids, at least those old enough to differentiate between fact and fiction. In America, the newspaper habit is dying out with statistics suggesting that only one in 20 per cent of adult Americans get their news from the paper, most preferring the Internet or TV news for current events. TV news, however, is much more in-your-face and requires careful monitoring, if your kids are watching it. Reading about a civil war in Syria is very different from seeing moving images of young men holding guns, or children suffering in refugee camps. This can alter perceptions and frighten kids. The truth of it being a very dangerous and hard world out there may be too much to digest.

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