WOW! Tuesday my head was spinning from so much news coming in so fast! I was watching 3-5 channels, on my Twitter feed and on Facebook trying to keep up with the Zimmerman trial, Aaron Hernanzez, DOMA, Nelson Mandela…! It was the same way during the chase of the 2 “Boston Marathon Bombing” suspects. I was up at 1 a.m. watching news and reading Tweets to follow the madness. I remember when I first became obsessed with news coverage – I was in college, when Magic Johnson was announcing he has AIDS. Since that day I devoured news like my life depended on it (and sometimes it does). I recall being a college student in California when the Rodney King police office trial was going on, and waiting anxiously for a verdict, which at that time, we could only watch on t.v., no Twitter, Facebook, or internet feeds or updates. Those were sloooooow news dissemination days by today’s standards. Then I got to thinking….
Am I always a critical news consumer? No, but I should be. Especially since I am a mom. I teach my students to be critical consumers of knowledge, including news, and I should do better to do the same.
In order to lead by example & teach our children to be critical consumers of news, we must take the lead. I have developed the following guidelines for myself (guidelines, not rules because sometimes I “break” them):
- Acknowledge that all news reporting has biases; even our favorite papers and/or reporters.
- Try not to react viscerally (especially in front of small children) to the breaking news of anything. Stories change quickly and the first report is not always the right report. Anyone remember CNN’s coverage of the Gore-Bush election???
- A tough one for me: No “hard-hitting” news before work (only weather and traffic) and no news right before bed (switched from 11 p.m. to 6 p.m. broadcast).
- If I’m following a breaking story, I look for different perspectives. I have my favorite stations and I check out what my least favorite news reporters are saying also. I cannot teach a class on social welfare policy and only present the CNN, MSNBC perspective…I gotta get the FOX and others side too.
- I use Twitter and Facebook not as a primary news source, but as the quickest way to stay ahead of the t.v. folks. On Tuesday the Tweets were flying about Trayvonn Martin’s friend testimony. I got caught up in the madness! A day later more thoughtful responses to her came out….
There are all kinds of blogs and articles out there about children and news, here are my tips (remember I have a toddler who I do not feel is ready yet for news beyond weather & sports…):
- Discuss what your child about the news only what is age appropriate and what will affect his/her daily routine
- Add news reading to their reading list when he/she is old enough to discuss with you what he read
Other tips I found out there about critical news consumption:
- From PBS: http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/talk/news.html
- From Children Now: http://www.childrennow.org/index.php/learn/twk_news
A good place to start with kids: