Trauma on the News: Should Children Watch?

This article originally appeared in Issue# 52-53

News and melodrama interlock. I noticed that Emily displayed a gory, sensationalist glee when she talked of, repeatedly, the story of a girl who was kidnapped and murdered, her throat cut and her body found in a sack. She heard it from a friend. Then it was on the news.

Once reassured by me that she was not in danger, she enjoyed playing with the fear, exploring its parameters. I want her to be aware of dangers, to act — if necessary — on her own initiative; not to go with a stranger, etc.

But it is also very important to me that she does not grow up to be fearful. She has heard the word "rape" on television news, but she does not know what it means. I have, sometimes, turned the television off, discreetly — in fact, censored the news. I am nervous of alarmism. Not paradoxically. Part of the zeitgeist of contemporary times is fear. And, surely, alarmism leads to self-victimization?

There is this shifting borderline which I, as a parent, have to negotiate. When to protect? When not to protect?

It is also my responsibiity that she is not endangered.

(Excerpted from "Mama Don't Preach" by Marsha Rowe in Parents Talking Television: Television in the Home, 1987, Comedia Publishing Group, London.)