Should Your Child Watch TV News? Surprising Opinions of Top Anchors


Greater than ever, youngsters witness innumerable, generally traumatizing,
information occasions on TV. It appears that evidently violent crime and dangerous information is unabating.
Overseas wars, pure disasters, terrorism, murders, incidents of kid abuse,
and medical epidemics flood our newscasts day by day. To not point out the grim
wave of latest college shootings.

All of this intrudes on the harmless world of youngsters. If, as psychologists
say, youngsters are like sponges and soak up the whole lot that goes on round them,
how profoundly does watching TV information really have an effect on them? How cautious do
dad and mom must be in monitoring the circulation of stories into the house, and the way can
they discover an method that works?

To reply these questions, we turned to a panel of seasoned anchors, Peter
Jennings, Maria Shriver, Linda Ellerbee, and Jane Pauley–each having confronted the
complexities of elevating their very own weak youngsters in a news-saturated

Image this: 6:30 p.m. After an exhausting day on the workplace, Mother is busy
making dinner. She parks her 9-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son in entrance
of the TV.

“Play Nintendo till dinner’s prepared,” she instructs the little ones, who,
as a substitute, begin flipping channels.

Tom Brokaw on “NBC Information Tonight,” declares that an Atlanta gunman
has killed his spouse, daughter and son, all three with a hammer, earlier than occurring
a taking pictures rampage that leaves 9 lifeless.

On “World Information Tonight,” Peter Jennings studies {that a} jumbo jetliner with
greater than 300 passengers crashed in a spinning metallic fireball at a Hong Kong

On CNN, there is a report concerning the earthquake in Turkey, with 2,000
individuals killed.

On the Discovery channel, there is a well timed particular on hurricanes and the
terror they create in youngsters. Hurricane Dennis has already struck, Floyd is

Lastly, they see a neighborhood information report a couple of curler coaster accident at a New
Jersey amusement park that kills a mom and her eight-year-old daughter.

Nintendo was by no means this riveting.

“Dinner’s prepared!” shouts Mother, unaware that her youngsters could also be terrified
by this menacing potpourri of TV information.

What’s improper with this image?

There is a LOT improper with it, nevertheless it‘s not that simply fixable,” notes Linda
Ellerbee, the creator and host of “Nick Information,” the award-winning information
program geared for youths ages 8-13, airing on Nickelodeon.

“Watching blood and gore on TV is NOT good for youths and it would not do
a lot to boost the lives of adults both,” says the anchor, who strives to
inform youngsters about world occasions with out terrorizing them. “We’re into
stretching youngsters‘ brains and there is nothing we would not cowl,” together with
latest packages on euthanasia, the Kosovo disaster, prayer in colleges, book-
banning, the demise penalty, and Sudan slaves.

However Ellerbee emphasizes the need of parental supervision, shielding
youngsters from unfounded fears. “Through the Oklahoma Metropolis bombing, there
have been horrible pictures of youngsters being damage and killed,” Ellerbee remembers. “Children
wished to know in the event that they have been secure of their beds. In research carried out by
Nickelodeon, we came upon that youngsters discover the information probably the most scary factor
on TV.

Whether or not it is the Gulf Battle, the Clinton scandal, a downed jetliner, or what
occurred in Littleton, you need to reassure your youngsters, over and over,
that they will be OK–that the explanation this story is information is that IT
ALMOST NEVER HAPPENS. Information is the exception…no one goes on the air
fortunately and studies what number of planes landed safely!

“My job is to place the data into an age-appropriate context and decrease
anxieties. Then it is actually as much as the dad and mom to watch what their youngsters watch
and talk about it with them”

But a brand new research of the function of media within the lives of youngsters carried out by
the Henry J. Kaiser Household Basis reveals that 95% of the nation’s youngsters
ages 8-18 are watching TV with out their dad and mom current.

How does Ellerbee view the everyday state of affairs of the harried mom above?

Mother‘s taking a beating right here. The place‘s Dad?” Ellerbee asks.Maybe at work,
or residing individually from Mother, or absent altogether.

Proper. Most Mothers and Dads are working as arduous as they’ll as a result of we
reside in a society the place one earnings simply would not minimize it anymore,”

NBC Information correspondent Maria Shriver, the mom of four–Katherine,
13, Christina, 12, Patrick, 10, and Christopher, 6–agrees with Ellerbee: “However
aren’t utilizing the TV as a babysitter as a result of they’re out getting manicures!”
says the 48-year-old anchor.

These moms are struggling to make ends meet and so they do it as a result of
they need assistance. I do not suppose youngsters could be watching [as much TV] if their
dad and mom have been residence organizing a contact soccer recreation.

Once I want the TV as a babysitter,” says Shriver, who leaves detailed TV-
viewing directions behind when touring, “I placed on a secure video. I do not thoughts
that my youngsters have watched “Fairly Girl” or “My Finest Buddy‘s Marriage ceremony
3,000 occasions. I might be extra fearful in the event that they watched an hour of native information.That
would scare them. They may really feel: ‘Oh, my God, is any individual going to come back
in and shoot me in my bed room?'”

In a transfer to oversee her personal youngsters extra intently since her husband,
Arnold Schwarzenegger, grew to become Governor, Shriver
scaled again her workload as Contributing Anchor to Dateline NBC and arrange
her workplace at residence: “You may by no means be vigilant sufficient along with your youngsters,” she
says, “as a result of watching violence on TV clearly has a big impact on
children–whether it is TV information, motion pictures, or cartoons.”

This view is shared by the American Academy of Youngster and Adolescent
Psychiatry, which states: “”TV is a robust affect in growing worth
techniques and shaping habitsresearch discover that youngsters could develop into immune
to the horror of violence; regularly settle for violence as a technique to clear up issues;
and resort to anti-social and aggressive habits, imitating the violence they

Though there are not any guidelines about watching TV in 49% of the nation’s
households, TV-watching on the Schwarzenegger residence is nearly completely

We’ve got a blanket rule that my youngsters don’t watch any TV in any respect through the
week,” she notes, “and having a TV of their bedrooms has by no means been an
choice. I’ve sufficient bother getting them to do their homework!” she states
with fun. “Plus the half hour of studying they should do each night time.

In line with the Kaiser survey, Shriver’s family is a obtrusive exception to
the rule. “Many youngsters have their very own TV’s, VCR’s and video video games of their
bed room,” the research notes. Furthermore, youngsters ages 8-18 really spend an
common of three hours and 16 minutes watching TV day by day; solely 44 minutes
studying; 31 minutes utilizing the pc; 27 minutes taking part in video video games;
and a mere 13 minutes utilizing the Web.

“My youngsters,” Shriver explains, “get residence at 4 p.m., have a 20-minute break,
then go proper into homework or after-school sports activities. Then, I am an enormous believer in
having household time for dinner. A few of my fondest recollections are of sitting on the
dinner desk and listening to my dad and mom, 4 brothers, and my grandmother,
Rose. We did not watch the information.

“After dinner these days, we play a recreation, then my youngsters are in mattress, studying
their books. There is not any time in that day for any TV, besides on weekends, when
they’re allowed to look at a Disney video, Sesame Road, Barney, The Brady
Bunch, or Pokemon.”

Past secure leisure, Shriver has eradicated completely the choice of her
youngsters watching information occasions unfolding reside on TV: “My youngsters,” she notes, “do
not watch any TV information, apart from Nick Information,” as a substitute offering her youngsters
with Time for Children, [Teen Newsweek is also available], Highlights, and
newspaper clippings mentioned over dinner.

“No topic must be off-limits,” Shriver concludes, “however it’s essential to filter
the information to your youngsters.”

ABC’s Peter Jennings, who reigns over “World Information Tonight,” the nation’s
most-watched night newscast, emphatically disagrees with a censored
method to news-watching: “I’ve two kids–Elizabeth is now 24 and
Christopher is 21– and so they have been allowed to look at as a lot TV information and
info anytime they wished,” says the anchor. A agency believer in
youngsters understanding the world round them, he tailored his bestselling e-book,
The Century, for kids ages 10 and older in The Century for Younger Individuals.

No draw back to youngsters watching information? “I do not know of any draw back and I’ve
thought of it many occasions. I used to fret about my youngsterspublicity to
violence and overt intercourse within the motion pictures. Like most dad and mom, I discovered that though
they have been uncovered to violence ahead of I might have appreciated, I do not really feel
they have been affected by it. The jury’s nonetheless out on the intercourse.

I’ve uncovered my youngsters to the violence of the world–to the bestiality of
man–from the very starting, at age 6 or 7. I did not attempt to disguise it. I by no means
nervous about placing a curtain between them and actuality, as a result of I by no means felt
my youngsters could be broken by being uncovered to violence IF they
understood the context during which it occurred. I might speak to my youngsters concerning the
vulnerability of youngsters in wartime–the incontrovertible fact that they’re harmless pawns–
and about what we may do as a household to make the world a extra peaceable

Jennings firmly believes that coddling youngsters is a mistake: “I’ve by no means
talked right down to my youngsters, or to youngsters interval. I all the time speak UP to them and
my newscast is acceptable for kids of any age.”

But the 65-year-old anchor typically will get letters from irate dad and mom: “They will
say: ‘How dare you set that on at 6:30 when my youngsters are watching?’ My
reply is: ‘Madam, that is not my drawback. That is YOUR drawback. It is
completely as much as the mum or dad to watch the circulation of stories into the house.”

A part of directing this circulation is popping it off altogether at meal-time, says
Jennings, who believes household dinners are sacrosanct. He’s appalled that the
TV is turned on throughout meals in 58% of the nation’s households, this in accordance
to the Kaiser research.

“Watching TV throughout dinner is unforgivable,” he exclaims, explaining that
he all the time insisted that his household wait till he arrived residence from anchoring
the information. “You are darn proper they waited…even when my youngsters have been tiny, they
by no means ate till 7:30 or 8 pm. Then we’d sit with no music, no TV. Why
waste such a golden alternative? Watching TV at mealtime robs the household of
the essence of the dinner, which is communion and trade of concepts. I imply,
God, if the dinner desk is something, it is a spot to study manners and
appreciation for 2 of the best issues in life–food and drink.”

Jennings is likewise unequivocal in his view of junk TV and believes parking
youngsters on the tube creates boring minds: “I feel utilizing TV as a babysitter is a
horrible thought as a result of the rattling tv could be very narcotic, drug-like. Senseless
TV makes for passive human beings–and it is a distraction from homework!

“My two youngsters have been allowed to look at solely a half an hour of leisure
TV per night–and they by no means had TV’s of their bedrooms.It is a acutely aware
alternative I made as a mum or dad to not tempt them…too seductive…”

Provides Ellerbee: “TV is seductive and is supposed to be. The arduous, clear reality is
that when youngsters are watching TV, they don’t seem to be doing the rest!”

Certainly, in accordance with the Nationwide Institute on Out-of-College Time and the
Workplace of Analysis Training Shopper Information, TV performs a much bigger function in
youngsters‘s lives now than ever earlier than. Children watch TV a mean of14 to 22
hours per week, which accounts for not less than 25 p.c of their free time.

“Dateline NBC” Anchor Jane Pauley, intensely personal, declined an interview
to debate how she and her husband, cartoonist Garry Trudeau (“Doonesbury”)
deal with TV-watching with their three teenagers, two of whom are fraternal twins.
However in a written response, she agreed that youngsters must be higher protected
from the onslaught of violence: “I used to be a customer at a public elementary college
not way back, and was invited to peek in on a fourth-grade class on ‘present
occasions.’ The task had been to look at the information and write about considered one of
the tales. Two youngsters picked the deadly assault on a toddler by a pit bull and the
different wrote a couple of baby who’d hanged herself with a belt! They’d all watched
the worst blood and gore ‘Information at 11′ station on the town. The instructor gave no
trace that she was as appalled as I used to be. My response was to assist the college get
subscriptions to “Time for Children” and “My Weekly Reader.” Individuals must be
higher information customers. And tabloid TV could be very unhealthy for youths.”

On this level, Ellerbee readily agrees:”I actually do imagine the primary
modification STOPS at your entrance door. You’re the boss at residence and fogeys
have each proper to watch what their youngsters watch. What’s even higher is
watching with them and initiating conversations about what they see.In case your
baby is watching one thing terribly violent, sit down and DEFUSE it. Speaking
makes the ghosts run…and youngsters can break by means of their scared emotions.”

Provides Pauly:

Children,” she maintains, “learn about dangerous news–they’re those attempting to
spare us the dangerous information generally. However youngsters ought to have the ability to see that their
dad and mom are each human sufficient to be deeply affected by a tragedy like
Columbine, but additionally sturdy sufficient to get by means of it…and on with life. That’s
the underpinning of their safety.”

I am no professional on the nation’s youngsters,” provides Jennings, ” however I might should say
no, it wasn’t traumatic. Troubling, surprising, even devastating to some,
complicated to others, however traumatizing in that nice sense, no.

“Would I clarify to my youngsters that there are younger, upset, offended, depressed
youngsters on the earth? Sure. I hear probably the most horrendous tales about what is going on
on in excessive colleges from my youngsters. And due to the shootings, dad and mom are
now on edge–pressuring educators to ‘do one thing.’ They should be
reminded that the overwhelming majority of all colleges in America are overwhelmingly
secure,” a reality borne out by The Nationwide College Security Middle, which studies that
in l998 there have been simply 25 violent deaths in colleges in comparison with a mean of
50 within the early 90’s.

Ellerbee provides {that a} mum or dad‘s potential to hear is extra essential than
lobbying college principals for extra metallic detectors and armed guards: “If
there was ever a case the place grown-ups weren’t listening to youngsters, it was
Littleton. First, do not interrupt your babyallow them to get the entire thought out.
Subsequent, if you happen to sit silently for a few seconds after they’re completed, they will
begin speaking once more, attending to a second stage of honesty. Third, attempt to be sincere
along with your child. To very young children, it is correct to say: ‘That is by no means going to
occur to you…’ However you do not say that to a 10-year-old.”

Furthermore, Ellerbee believes that media literacy begins the day dad and mom cease
pretending that if you happen to ignore TV, it’ll go away. “Let your child know from the
very starting that she or he is SMARTER than TV: ‘I’m answerable for this field,
it isn’t answerable for me. I’ll use this field as a helpful, highly effective TOOL, however will
not be utilized by it.’ Children know the distinction.

“Watching TV,” Ellerbee maintains, “can makes youngsters extra civilized. I grew
up within the south of Texas in a household of bigoted individuals. Watching TV made me
query my family‘s beliefs within the pure inferiority of individuals of colour.
For me, TV was an actual window that broadened my world.”

Paradoxically, for Shriver, watching TV information is extremely painful when the
broadcast is about you. Being a Kennedy, Shriver has lived a lifetime within the
glare of rumors and
televised hypothesis about her family. Presenting the information to her youngsters
has subsequently included explaining the tragedies and controversies the
Kennedys have endured. She was simply eight years previous when her uncle, President
John F. Kennedy, was assassinated: “I grew up in a really massive shadow…and I
could not keep away from it,” she admits. “It wasn’t a choker, nevertheless it was an enormous
accountability that I do not need my very own youngsters to really feel.” But would not her 15-
yr marriage to megastar Schwarzenegger add one more layer of public
curiosity near residence? “My youngsters aren’t watching Leisure Tonight–no,
no, by no means! And I do not carry them to film openings or Planet Hollywood. I
suppose it is tremendous for them to be happy with their father, however not showcase about him.”

How does she emotionally deal with information when her household‘s in it? “That is a line
I have been strolling since my very own childhood, and it is definitely effected the sort
of reporter I’ve develop into. It is made me much less aggressive. I am not [in the news
business] to glorify myself at another person‘s expense, however fairly to report a
story with out destroying somebody within the course of. A producer would possibly say: ‘Name
this one that‘s in a disastrous scenario and e-book them proper manner.’ And I am
like: ‘Ahhhh. I can not even carry myself to do it,’ as a result of I have been on the
different aspect and know the household is in such ache.”

Just a few years in the past, after all, the Kennedys skilled profound ache, but
once more, when Shriver’s beloved cousin, John F. Kennedy, Jr., was killed in a aircraft
crash, together with his spouse, Carolyn, and sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette. A blizzard of
information protection ensued, unremitting for weeks. “I did not watch any of it…I used to be
busy, ” Shriver says quietly. “And my youngsters did not watch any of it both.”

Shriver was, nonetheless, considerably ready to debate the tragedy along with her
youngsters. She is the writer of the best-selling “What’s Heaven?” [Golden Books],
a e-book geared for kids ages 4-8, which explains demise and the lack of a
beloved one. “My youngsters knew John properly as a result of he spent Christmases with us. I
defined what occurred to John because the information unfolded…walked them by means of
it as finest I may. I reminded them that Mommy wrote the e-book and stated:
‘We’re not going to see John anymore. He has gone to God…to heaven…and we
have to hope for him and for his sister [Caroline] and her youngsters.”

Like Shriver, Jennings is personally uncomfortable within the function of overlaying
personal tragedies in a public discussion board: “In my store, I am considered a kind of
individuals who drags their ft loads on the notion of overlaying these issues,” he
explains. “Through the O.J. Simpson trial, I made a decision to not go loopy in our
coverage–and we took fairly a smack and dropped from first to second within the
rankings. TV is a enterprise, so when an actual corker of a narrative like Princess Diana’s
demise comes alongside, we cowl it. I feel we’re afraid to not do it. We’re responsible of
overkill, and with Diana, we ended up celebrating one thing that was largely
ephemeral, making Diana greater than she was. However audiences leap up!

I used to be completely against overlaying John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s funeral, as a result of I
noticed no have to do it. He wasn’t a public determine, although others would say I used to be
improper. On-air, I stated: ‘I do not suppose the younger Mr. Kennedy would approve of
all this extra…’ However we did three hours on the funeral and it turned out to be
a beautiful lengthy historical past lesson about American politics and the Kennedy
dynasty’s place in our nationwide life.

Generally,” Jennings muses, “TV is sort of a chapel during which we, as a nation,
can collect to have a communal expertise of loss.We did it with the
Challenger, extra just lately with JFK Jr.’s demise and we are going to do it shortly, I
suspect, although I hope not, with Ronald Reagan. It isn’t a lot completely different than
what individuals did once they went West in coated wagons within the final century.
When tragedy struck, they gathered the wagons round, lit the fireplace, and talked
about their losses of the day. After which went on. Tv will be very

In closing, Ellerbee contends that you would be able to‘t blame TV information producers for
the human urge for food for sensational information protection that usually drags on for days
at a time:

“As a reporter,” she muses, “I’ve by no means been to a struggle, visitors accident, or
homicide web site that did not draw a crowd. There’s a little trash in all of us. However the
similar individuals who cease to gawk at a visitors accident, can also climb down a properly
to avoid wasting a toddler‘s life, or cry at a sundown, or grin and faucet their ft when the
parade goes by.

We’re NOT only one factor. Children can perceive these grays…simply as
there’s a couple of reply to a query, there may be definitely a couple of
half to you!”

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