Living in a time of great uncertainty this past year has put the greatest demands on families: children were out of school for much of last year, activities were cancelled, parents have either been working from home or are front-line workers and their children were at school suddenly with smaller class sizes.
We are now coming out of this crisis but it’s all been quite dystopian. It raises the question of how parents, teachers and tutors have dealt with explaining the pandemic and its consequences to children. Children have had questions and parents want their children informed about the news, on a local, global level or both. How can we do this responsibly?
Exposure to news should be tailored depending on age. Children under seven years old should be kept away from the news and the bonds within the family be elevated, that the home is a positive, safe and healthy environment in which to be nurtured and grow. For children between the ages of eight and twelve years, their maturity and temperament should be considered. Parents, teachers and tutors should be available to answer questions. Teenagers should be allowed to express themselves about what they watch on the news and read from websites or social media. Check in with them about where they are getting their news and that they are developing their own points of view as part of their development.
Parents should make time to check in and speak to their children about what they know and what they don’t know. Covid is still dominating the news, and with 24 hour news cycles, it is important for children to receive serious and balanced information, filtering out the hysteria and sometimes apocalyptic nature of the headlines. Emphasise the positive for it to be more palatable, that there is hope and goodness in the world. We should all want children to grow into mature, balanced, well-informed young people. Generation Z and the generation coming quickly behind them are particularly interested in global energy and environmental crises, and their future impact. Be interested in the things they are interested in and bring in current affairs where relevant and appropriate. Discussion and debate, nurturing respect and their different points of view as well as learning from history are important aspects of their educational development.
In this age of information-overload and the risks of misinformation and fake news on social media, parents should seek out trusted news channels, podcasts and publications, trusted news authorities. Look out too for publications which partner with public-facing, trusted organisations and recommended by schools, such as The Week Junior and First News. These magazines are experienced in communicating current affairs especially for a young readership. This will not only encourage children to become informed, but also develop their literacy, critical thinking and curiosity. These publications also help parents, teachers and tutors engage with children. They help to explain world events in an appropriate manner, and help families and educators develop trust and rapport with children, for them to grow into well-rounded, educated young people.
BA(Hons) (Dunelm), LLM (London), Barrister, FTA