Children are exposed to a worldwide variety of media and applications that span globally. But the media we see is not always the same media our children see. The media and news channels that run in our house may be filtering differently through their social media channels in apps and on smartphones. With 6.8 million children on Facebook -using it as social media platform – they are exposed to media biases based upon their likes and conversations or by “Facebook algorithms.” Also, keep in mind that on average, children at the age of 12 are receiving their first smart phone which makes those “livestreams” and “newsfeeds” very provocative and impressive.
With regular access to media that is highly entertaining, provocative, possibly misinformed and misunderstood the question to begin asking is how do we talk to our children about real news and the media with which they are inundated?
A rule of thumb for speaking to your child about the media and any biased ideas about people or situations that come filtering through social media, smartphone apps, the radio, or a home TV is to strike up a conversation that leads to thinking critically. Of course, it is age dependent, yet even at a young age, you would be surprised what your children’s little minds can understand.
- Have a conversation about safety. If your children are concerned about their safety and watching media and news channels have created chronic fear, develop a conversation around the following questions: what is safety? How do you define it? How can you achieve it? Thinking critically can create more confidence if it is done with honesty and integrity.
- Call out fear in the news for what it is. The news agencies and their stories gain traction and viewers (which means more money) from mainstream fear and prejudices of other people. They are paid to have “breaking news” stories and fear and hate are the easy way to pay the bills. Unfortunately, it comes at a cost of their own conscience as well as our cultural story that we repeat. Ask your child if they know anyone of a different culture or ethnicity that has achieved something great. Again, think critically and begin to shift the mindset from fear to achievement to victory for all people.
- Bring awareness to different resources. More children are going online to answer the question they have about the world rather than their parents. They go to social media friends or groups, they turn to YouTube, go to blogs, and even ask their questions in their own videos and await the answers from loyal followers. The media is their way to interact with a “real world” as well as get their news. It is helpful to bring tried and true resources to your children’s attention and bring a new-found light to the realities they face today.
- Encourage them to turn off the news. When you notice media and biases are affecting your child’s character and relationship bonds it may be good to suggest stepping away from the news. The news has an emotional element that undeniably plants fear-based beliefs about people and the world around them. It is important when you notice your child’s behavior change toward you and the world in general, to turn off the news and turn on something positive. Perhaps switch to self-development channels and books, support going to a positive place of worship, or maybe even creating your own “good news” story for fun.
- Be an example. Your child watches and observes your behavior. He or she is always watching for cues on how to behave. Naturally, children will model behavior as a way to belong, fit in, and ultimately survive. If you are glued to the news and repeating what the news anchors are saying, your child will too. However, if you are able to watch the news with a critical mind, and able to form your own balanced opinions and maintain a positive self-image and worldview your child will adopt similar thinking habits too.
The media these days is not always doing their best job reporting the news. Reminding children to think critically and to understand that these are people just like us who need jobs, who are doing the best they can with the resources they have is a great way to lay the foundation for developing a value for news while at the same time to take it with a grain of salt. News connects us to each other, but it is entirely up to you and your child to make that connection based in fear or based in confidence, balance, and compassion.