IT’S always been hard working out when and how much of the world our children get to see.I don’t mean travel, but rather the daily torrent of violence and awfulness that fills up a good part of our TV news programs.
We’re a household that’s always been preoccupied with what’s going on in the world. My diplomat turned political staffer turned journalist husband has always been obsessive about the news. When we first met I wondered whether it was a form of addiction.
Truth is, I was much the same and the fact that for years we both worked at Parliament House meant that we were always plugged in, always monitoring what was going on at home or overseas.
In more recent years our news consumption has diminished a bit.
Until recently we turned the news off when our kids were up and about. But as they’re getting older – now 11 and 8 – they are curious about the world and interested to find out what is happening.
So they often watch the news with us, especially early in the morning when we’re getting ready for the day and in the evening after dinner.
I don’t favour household censorship and we want our kids to have a realistic understanding of the world. That said, the news has presented some challenges in recent weeks.
We’ve had discussions about footage of the victims of the shooting down of flight MH17, scenes of carnage in Gaza and severed heads in Syria; in the last instance the grizzly details were mostly pixilated but ABC News 24 did include a distant shot that left nothing to the imagination.
Had we been forewarned, I would have changed the channel or otherwise distracted the kids for a moment.
Still I’d rather the opportunity of talking things through with my children than them seeing things unfiltered and without context.
I also think it better for them to get a glimpse of the real world, awful as some of it can be, and gain some understanding of the consequences of violence than have them desensitised by spending hours playing first-person shooter computer games – that’s something that is banned in our household.
In a world where a lot of horror is easily accessible via the internet, it’s better to be proactive and realistic about when children look at conflict and violence. It’s hard to get the balance or timing right, but there are limits to how protective one should be. So in our household the news is going to stay on in the evenings, though one or both parents will always be on hand for quite a while yet.