Media Exposure

My 7 year old son has recently been watching the news early am before my husband or I awaken. We have been allowing him to watch PBS in the am but now he is becoming interested in watching the news and often reports to us a violent or bizarre story that is being reported. I’m not sure if I should prevent him from watching the news in am or use what he hears as topic for discussion. Any advice would be much appreciated.


Dear Parent,

There is more than one answer to your question as it depends on your lifestyle preferences and the culture you like to immerse your child in. I personally prefer to raise children without TV altogether because of the passivity it promotes, its ability to shorten the child’s attention span, and because of its addictive nature and dubious content. In addition, TV has advertisement that are designed to make a consumer out of every adult and child. If you want your child to sit in front of the TV, so you can stay in bed longer, I suggest that you provide a high quality video rather than the news. Books, music, art supplies and creative toys are even better.

I don’t necessarily think that we have to shield children from the news in general but they certainly don’t need exposure to violence. Either way, the news can be accessed by listening to the radio or reading the newspaper together, if the interest is authentic. Is your child watching TV out of an interest in learning about politics and world events? I doubt it. So, the question is not so much about the news but about watching TV without parental presence.

If you want to keep your child exposed to TV, it may be a good idea to watch it together and discuss things right away, before what he sees scares or confuses him.  At age seven hearing about killing, bombs, suicide, theft, murder or kidnapping can be shocking and scary. On his own, it would not occur to a child that people would hurt each other. Some children can be traumatized by violent events on the screen and develop fear of falling asleep and other emotional difficulties. Other children seem able to accept a lot of exposure to TV content if guided by parents. Still some youngsters may be so innocent, that they don’t event grasp what they see. Yet, regardless of their immediate response, children can become adept and desensitize to seeing violence and see it as acceptable or become fearful or aggressive themselves.

I grew up in a country of war, and my inner peace and commitment to peace were only strengthened by being aware of the news. But I did not watch it visually as there was no TV at the time. The information is not the issue as much as how it is delivered and with whom. Your seven year old is unlikely to want to know the news. It is TV watching that gets him into this theme. I believe finding other ways for him to spend his time when you are still in bed would be much better for him. 

Warmly,  Naomi Alodrt