watching the news with your kids

I don’t do it, as a rule. In New York City, you can get the weather every ten minutes “on the ones” on the local news channel; I flick it on to check what time it’s going to start raining (since it seems to be raining pretty much every day), and then quickly off again before the cable box switches to :02 and the anchor moves on to the latest double stabbing on Staten Island. 

Yesterday, though, as 7-year-old Connor and I stood waiting for the city bus to take us home (in the rain), he asked me if I’d heard anything about some miners from Chile.

“Have you?” I asked, surprised. Turns out his classmate, whose parents are from Chile, had been talking up the exciting rescue of the 33 miners during playdeck time.

“Tell me about it,” Connor said. “I want to know everything.”

So I told him everything I knew, like how one miner’s wife was pregnant, and he thought he’d never see the baby, and they only had a spoonful of tuna every other day for three weeks, and when he came out this man got down on his knees and prayed.

Turns out Connor had more second-grade type questions: Who gave them those sunglasses? When people were putting stuff in the tiny tunnel to send them, did anyone send some gum? Did they poop in the same place as they peeped?(That, you must admit, is a good question.)

We stood there talking for twenty minutes, in the rain, with the bus not coming, at which point we gave up and walked a mile home since we were wet anyhow. We talked the whole way about the miners, and how everyone thought they’d fight a lot and be mean to each other but they really didn’t, and how maybe other people aren’t as bad as we sometimes think they are.
It was a great conversation, and it made me realize that Connor is ready to understand more about the world, to discuss current events and what he thinks about them.

To a point, that is. How can I control the news he hears, so it’s about rescued miners and the triumph of the human spirit, and not hate crimes, and pedophiles roaming city schools? How do I expand his intelligence while maintaining his innocence just a little while longer?

I’m thinking about it.  Did you discuss the miners’ story (or any other recent news event) with your kids? Do you let them watch the news? What works for you?

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Sheila Baum October 15, 2010 at 2:34 pm

I am probably one of the few parents who thinks the news is a good thing for kids to watch sometimes. No, I'm not putting my 2 year old in front of murder stories, but she should know that there is more than the immediate world around her. My parents made a point of having me watch the news from the time I was about 7 or 8 years old. I watched the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, and I think I became a better adult for it. Dad always said it is important to know what other people are going through in the world around you. It helps you understand what life is really about.


Courtney October 15, 2010 at 2:38 pm

My husband and I have just been discussing this! I like to watch Brian Williams and the evening news,and I grew up watching Peter Jennings. But the news is on during dinnertime, so it's a hard balance – we don't want the TV to always be on, but I like to watch a re-cap of the days news when I am home. Zoe will for sure grow up with the news, and newspapers, and magazines and books around the house. I think we'll just try to edit it until she's old enough to really understand. Some of my friends never read the newspaper or watch the news, and to me that is unfathomable!


Anonymous October 15, 2010 at 2:40 pm

I am with Sheila. I grew up in a family where my parents went overboard to keep us away from the news. I was sooo ignorant compared to my friends at college. We play a lot of public radio at our house; it is usually pretty appropriate, and they usually warn you when it isn't. My kids are teens now, and they have a very good grasp of current events and world news.


Amy Wilson October 15, 2010 at 2:45 pm

I'm a total news junkie. I read the paper every day, listen to public radio while I work out, and have the TV news on while I get dressed. Even in the car, I'm all news, no music (when the kids aren't with me). I'm all about being a well-informed citizen of the world- but I guess I always thought, at least until yesterday, that my kids were too young to be a part of it. Part of that is probably because I well remember 9/11, and even though I wasn't a parent yet, I had friends who were, and I remember how they tried in vain to keep their New York City kids from understanding the enormous terror of what was happening.

So Sheila, maybe I'll follow your parents' lead, and get my 2nd grader watching the news while keeping his younger siblings out of it, for a while longer.

and Anonymous, maybe you're on to something with the public radio- at least you're safe from the upsetting images and the talking heads yelling at each other…


Mollie October 15, 2010 at 7:52 pm

One thing I think people with children (or self-respect) ought to consider doing is keeping the tabloid newspapers out of their homes. Case in point: yesterday, both The New York Post and the Daily News devoted their front pages to… how that one miner was greeted at the top by his mistress and not his wife. I think, even if you can't control their awareness of current events in general, you can try to keep them from being exposed to the news primarily through the most prurient and exploitative lens possible. Of course, TV news is not always so different. What they focus on is not usually what you really need to know to be an informed citizen of the world. (Tiger Woods, anyone?)


Anonymous October 15, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Anonymous again. Our car is almost all news when the kids are with us. I do get what you are saying about 9/11. We don't live in NY, but I turned off the TV that day because I didn't want my kids watching the replays after we got home. I watched later, of course… we talked about it, but in as age appropriate way as I could figure out.


Anonymous October 15, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Oh… and my kids rock at social studies in high school and college, too, which is an added benefit. 🙂


Mommy on the Spot October 16, 2010 at 1:51 am

I usually have the Today Show on in the background. My kids are 4 and 18 months. If it's about parents dying or sick kids or hate crimes, I usually change it.

It's not so much the subject manner, but the presentation is not approriate. Instead of having my 4 year old hear about crimes against children on the news, we read age-approriate stories about stranger-danger.

However, when they does get older,I hope to watch the news together. I think it's important that they know what's going on in the world.


Anonymous October 17, 2010 at 5:34 pm

I am so heartened to read that so many you young parents are TALKING to your children! I see so many "moms" on cell phones walking kids to school, pushing strollers, etc, it makes me sad. I think car radios are great if you are traveling alone, but if you aren't,keep it off and talk talk talk. I had some great conversations with my children during that time.


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