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MANN: Where are the kids getting their news from?

Image Credit: SUBMITTED
March 08, 2018 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


There was no online news when I was in elementary school. If you wanted to know what was happening in your community, you had to pick up a paper, listen to the radio or watch the evening news.

Instant news was pretty much non-existent, unless the news was happening on your street.

There was no Twitter or Facebook, so personal opinions were kept to face-to-face conversations.

As someone who is employed in the field of journalism, it is pretty much impossible not to rely on online news — and be bombarded at the same time.

And believe me, sometimes I would like nothing more than to put down my phone and not have to read about missing children, crimes of passion and how many people died from the flu this year.

Not because I don’t care, but because it can be a tad bit depressing.

There is good news out there of course…reunions with long lost parents, pets finding forever homes and random acts of kindness in various communities, but let’s face it, when choosing between clicking on a sensationalized headline or one describing a monetary donation, most of us would be guilty of clicking left.

But there are so many positives to having the news at our fingertips.

We are making global connections, discovering endless opportunities, became more aware of issues in not only our immediate communities but in surrounding areas.

We can plan trips to the grocery store and avoid accidents and detours, and we can find out who is holding a lemonade stand before we even realize we are thirsty.

So I have now discovered several complexities as a parent, a parent with children who will soon be accessing their news primarily online.

Of course I am getting slightly ahead of myself as my children are still both under the age of three, but still, better safe than sorry when it comes to helping them understand what they are reading and how to sift through the news with purpose, caution and always questioning.

So what can I do, as my children learn to navigate the news online?

How do most parents handle it?

I know at times it will be out of my hands. I won’t always be around when they are scrolling. But that doesn’t mean I can’t instil guidelines for them.

Do you wait until your children come forward with questions — let it be a learn-as-they-go situation, or do you explain ahead of time about different platforms, types of articles, how politics work (or don’t), and how reading a post on your friends Facebook doesn’t mean the information included in that post is necessarily true?

Is there a particular age when children can really ‘handle’ the news?

Should we let children be children for just a little big longer?

I think the big takeaway for me is that it is unavoidable. Children are going to end up online, and everything else, we need to have some kind of master plan to help them understand what they are seeing and when to close their eyes.

I want it all for my children, the opportunities, the insights and the freedom to grow into global citizens, but at the same time I want to shield them from the news that may cause them grief and pain before they are really ready to handle it.


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