It’s stretched across newspapers, on the tube, big CAPITAL headlines on your browser, barked from the 6am news, and popping up on your favourite feed. Current affairs can be a scary thing for anyone of any age. Whether it’s happening on your own doorstep, or a doorstep millions of miles away; the news makes the world a frightening place - especially if you’re nine.
The wonder of the digital age makes information accessible for anyone at any time. Children are exposed to these stories and images by default and not curation.
The lack of reliable, effective and usable parental controls means access-for-all can deliver anxiety and fear to our children.
Most of what we see, read and hear is unnerving, awful and honestly - just terrifying. So for children, this surge in real-time, on demand, disaster news making its way onto a tablet that’s sat in their little hands, must be truly overwhelming.
But as Timon says to Simba: “Bad things happen, and there’s nothing you can do about it, so why worry?
Well, because if we don’t, who will?
During 2016, the NSPCC’s Childline service handled 11,706 counselling sessions for anxiety. That’s a 35% increase on 2014-15. With matters regarding the EU referendum, US election and Syria, there was a whole lot news to swallow. Now there have been three terrorist attacks in the space of three months and a tower block tragedy to face.
It’s not our place to say who should see what and when - that’s the incredibly difficult job of a child’s primary carer. But what we can do is help carers to decide this, based on facts said and shown in the right way.
In 2016 Childline created a webpage: “Worries about the world”, to mark their 30th anniversary. Terrorism and bullying are just a few of the topics they talk about, putting the facts in the right words and correct context - making the upsetting world events less distressing to read.
CBBC’s Newsround, First News, and The Week Jr all provide the news in a tone and context that young audiences can understand. Pages like ‘I don’t get it’ simplify complex issues (which even bewilder adults) and illustrate the reasons behind very sensitive happenings, such as Islamic State and Climate Change.
The news is a matter of fact, and sometimes - most of the time - those facts can be cruel and hard to stomach for anyone. But at the same time, we must give children more credit as young people who want to know about the world they live in.
What we need to do is be aware of what they are exposed to and provide them with the facts in a way that doesn’t create worry, but minimises it and offers support for children who are rightfully worried about the world.
Oh! And one last thing... What if the news brought more happy stories to light from time to time? Good things do still happen every day. Let’s remember that.