Go on, do a quick Google search. You’ll soon find a few of the samples of what the news is serving up today. I found: “NY woman helps track suspect in dad’s killing”; “Clashes in Istanbul extend into night”; “Santa Monica gunman was mentally evaluated”; “Accused lifeguard basher gets jail”; “Granddaughter abuser loses appeal”. Is it any wonder that the answer to the headline of this story for me is a resounding “NO! Are you crazy?”
With a five-year-old and a two-year-old in residence, we never have the nightly news on anymore. For us it’s just a minefield not worth navigating.
Having said that, in this day and age with all the handheld media devices and radio news in the car (not to mention playground natter) it would be incredibly naïve of anyone to try to shield their children from all bad news. That’s life. You can deal with explaining each and every piece of news as it comes to your child’s attention in a simple way that hopefully minimises fear and anxiety for them. Please don’t misunderstand me – I by no means wish to raise my children in a bubble. I give them the facts if and when they need them while minimising their exposure to bad news when possible.
Case-in-point. About three months ago my five-year-old asked me if I could please buy him a toy gun. My immediate response was an unmitigated “No way,” pronounced in my firm, no-compromise Mummy voice that usually elicits a follow up round of “but pleeeeeease Mummy”, “why not”, and so on and so forth. I measured my words carefully and shot back: “Because guns are not toys and I don’t believe they should be treated as toys.” Of course, with all the never-say-die enthusiasm of a five-year-old he said “But whhhhhyyyyy?” I re-loaded and fired back with “Because guns are very dangerous. They kill people.” Now that silenced him (which if you know my son is practically impossible). And yes, I note my gun-inspired puns…
I watched him in the rearview mirror as he sat and pondered my words for a while. Then he looked at me with the all the certainty of a worldly boy his age and said “Yes Mummy, but just to kill the baddies.” In his eyes baddies are non-fictional characters he’s seen on the television (half his luck). I say to him “Well actually mate, guns are so dangerous that sometimes the goodies can be killed by them too.” I watched as his chocolate brown eyes filled with confusion and his next words fair dinkum pierced my heart. “But why would anybody want to do that?” Excellent question (insert internal Mummy panic here). After a couple of beats, I countered it with “Because sometimes accidents happen mate.” For now, I believe that’s more than enough for him to process and to worry about. Amazingly, my incredibly tenacious son has never asked me for a toy gun again (yet).
When he’s old enough to watch the news he’ll learn for himself exactly how much damage guns can cause not to mention knives, bombs, fire, flood, famine, earthquakes and so on and then of course, there’s people. Behind all of the terror, all of the bad stuff happening in the world (apart from the damage wreaked by mother-nature) at the core of it all is people. People doing bad things to other people, sometimes unimaginable things. Does a five-year-old really need to be exposed to any of this whether directly (sitting down to watch it) or subliminally (as children are so accomplished at doing, soaking it up by osmosis as the nightly news is on in the background)?