After reporting and anchoring local TV news for more than decade, I never considered tuning out the events of the day after giving birth. I’ve watched the evening news religiously since I was in high school and never dreamed there would come a day when I would be forced to wean myself from my 6 o’clock fix.
However, that day has come.
A few weeks ago, I was in the kitchen making dinner with the TV news on in the background when my 7-year-old came waltzing in. Typically, she’ll sit on a stool at the counter and try to snag a snack as I prepare supper. She’s been doing this for years. She nibbles on cut-up fruits or veggies and stares at the TV while I put the finishing touches on our meal.
On this day, though, our evening routine was interrupted by a series of questions:
“Mommy, why is the news always bad?”
“How come they always talk about people dying?”
“Why do they show all that blood while we are eating?”
“What does ‘sexual assault’ mean?”
“Why did that man beat up his wife?”
“What’s flesh-eating bacteria?”
So much for a light and happy dinner.
Needless to say, now, our friends from the Food Network keep us company as I make supper.
For the record, I tried to answer my daughter’s questions about the news as best I could, though I still couldn’t get over the irony of the situation.
I am a stickler when it comes to blocking out violent or non-age-appropriate TV shows, yet here I was exposing my young child to blood, guts and sexually suggestive material each evening. Who knows what type of damage I may have caused.
According to a recent study featuring nearly 1000 kids between the ages of 8 and 12, the evening news is far more terrifying to children than primetime dramas such as CSI or Law and Order. Researchers found that kids considered the content of the evening news to be more disturbing than scenes from popular dramas. Images taken from war-torn countries, people shooting at each other, fires, and plane crashes frightened young viewers the most, according to the study. What’s more, the study’s co-author says the emotional reactions illustrated by the kids exposed to snippets of TV news stories were “significant” and “lasting.” One of the researchers also noted that many of the children expressed concerns about the news images they had seen and feared that the “bad things” might happen to them or their families.
Bottom line: Spare your kid the trauma and save your TV news viewing until they hit the sack. In addition, don’t be lulled into thinking that youngsters don’t understand what they are watching or that they aren’t paying attention. In most cases, children are soaking up televised content like little sponges.
Do you allow your kids to watch TV news with you?