Mum and Dad fix breakfast. The kitchen TV is tuned into the morning news. Two kids – let’s say five and seven years old – wait, watch, listen, and absorb.
Terrible sights and sounds of death and violence play across the screen. Syria. Sudan. School shootings in America. Train crashes in India. Crying. Blood.
Is oatmeal the only thing being cooked here? Not by a long shot. What’s also simmering is a growing sense of stress, dread, and anxiety in two developing minds.
Worse, the terrors of today’s adult TV and radio media are being witnessed where these kids ought to feel the most safe: at home.
Who pays attention to kids’ exposure to violent media news?
We buy safe hockey helmets for our little players because government regulations require us to do so. We argued for that.
Through our governing bodies, we insist on age/maturity-specific ratings on video games. We protect our kids from unhealthy snacks, and insist on strict quality regulations for everything from bikes to backpacks. We lobbied for these things.
Why, then, do we not advocate for media standards that take into account the emotional security and mental health of our kids? Based on the level of activism, Canadian content (bad drama) on Canadian networks would appear to be more important than the trauma kids experience as a result of their daily diet of violent news.
We need to filter what kids are able to experience on TV and radio news. Credible research clearly shows that regular exposure to overtly violent and frightening media content causes stress, anxiety, and quite possibly long-term mental health consequences for our kids.
I was recently shown a website that deals specifically with this issue, and I am delighted to report that the site’s publisher is none other than Michael Maser, a well-known Sunshine Coast award-winning educator, long-time journalist, and media scholar.
The site is www.choosenews.org
Maser lays out three entirely sensible propositions for why we should do better to protect our kids from unfiltered media violence.
The first is the plain and credibly studied fact that mental and emotional harm comes to children (below the age of 7) who witness violence in either TV or radio broadcasting.
The second is an issue of human rights. Kids are entitled to all the protections and safeguards we can afford them. In doubt about this? Google the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Canada is a signatory.
Finally, and perhaps above all else, there is the moral imperative. When research (and common sense) suggests that young kids suffer as a result of the adult appetite for carnage and shock, we are obligated to defend those kids.
The thorny matter of media/content regulation arises here, and not for the first time. The Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) has borne the unenviable mandate to regulate Canadian media in an age increasingly intolerant of government intervention. Its recommendations have been too-frequently ignored.
However, if we are to have hope for some level and mode of control over violent news content, we can look to our other successes: safety in manufactured goods, regulation and ratings systems for video/computer games, and the legal scrutiny of people who coach and teach our kids.
It is possible.