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Confessions of a news junkie who hides the news from his kids

  • 10 July 2015

I’m increasingly aware of fumbling to turn off the TV or rapidly switching channels as my kids wander in and out of the room to spend quality time with their mother and myself.

It’s not that I’ve been viewing violent, risqué, or scary footage. But I’ve been consciously and studiously protecting my kids from the news.

This goes against the grain, as I am a news junkie who loves discussing the state of political economic play with my wife, and talking through some issues with our children.

I am supportive and hyper-conscious of open communication. But I’ve re-connected with my inner media fascist. For good reason. The time that kids now spend consuming media – at school, during leisure, doing homework – is ‘second most to anything else children do, besides sleep’.

Children are devoting at least four hours to accessing the universe on their iPads and other electronic gear, including mobile phones, TV and video games. By the time they graduate from high school ‘teenagers will have spent more time in front of the screen than in the classroom’.

At home we supervise what our kids interact with as much as is humanly possible. At school it’s via the in loco parentis role exercised by their teachers. It's becoming more common for our supervision to involve a decision to switch channels, or switch off devices, for the sake of our kids’ mental health.

The horrific patricide by Cy Walsh, son of Adelaide Crows coach Phil Walsh wounded his wife Meredith, and left their daughter Quinn devastated. It baffled my family. The kids joined us in expressing sorrow, but we didn’t dwell on the murder. Noting many factors, I couldn’t come close to explaining it.

Then there’s the latest in a seemingly continuous number of ‘colour by dots’ mass executions, as 25 Syrian regime soldiers were murdered by ISIS in the ancient stadium in Palmyra, Syria. This grisly, spectator sport turned propaganda opportunity was perpetrated by child soldiers, no less. Want to explain that gleeful slaughter to your 11-year-old and eight-year-old? No thanks.

Fielding questions about the latest shark attack, or car crash, or government culling of charitable funds; these are relatively simple conversations compared to talking about the latest rape or mugging or instance of cruelty.

And there’s the perennial verbal assaults that shamelessly abuse others. There is no simple answer to the ‘why’; no straightforward answer when our kids ask us how they can reason with people