Why I don't let my children watch the television news

TV news
TV news Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

When I was a child, my mother let me watch the news every night. In fact, she encouraged it. It was important to know what was going on in the world, she said. I saw reports on the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, the famine in Ethiopia, and Charles and Diana's wedding.

I even had to do news reports at school each term, cutting out a story and retelling it to my classmates.

Those stories shaped my understanding of the world and my place in it. Big, terrible things and wonderful, grand things happened all over the world, but we were lucky to live a life of relative good fortune and comfort in suburban Brisbane.

But in this age of the 24-hour news cycle, it feels like something has shifted. In their bid to get one over on the other news channels, programs and websites race to break stories, coming at us with half truths and sensational headlines in the hope of grabbing our fleeting attention for an extra few seconds so they can attract more advertising spend.

We're not just hearing about news that affects us and our place in the world. We're hearing random stories of horror and pain – suffering we can do nothing about – and each story is bigger and more horrific than the one before.

When we heard that millions of people were starving in Africa in the 80s, we were encouraged to give generously. But when yet another school shooting occurs in America, it's front and centre in our news feed, and there's nothing we can do.

Worse than that, it scares us and it scares our children. Australia is a very different environment to America when it comes to shootings, and yet children worry that someone will come into their school with a gun. Schools even practise their lock down procedure, just in case, even though a school shooting has never occurred in Australia.

Doesn't that seem a little bit over the top?

We hear of abductions, murders, and horrendous other crimes from all over the world. They're awful, but how does it serve us to know about them? And more importantly, what can that knowledge do for our children apart from constantly whispering to them that perhaps their world isn't as safe as they thought it was?

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The news reports on the worst aspects of human behaviour – it's basically twenty minutes of everything bad that happened today. And when we're fearful, we're more likely to tune in again tomorrow, just to check what's happened now. Are we safe, or are things worse than before? And so, we become addicted to the cycle, all the while making our kids swim in an ocean of fabricated fear.

I made the decision a couple of years ago to stop watching and reading the news. When important things happen, I still hear about them. But I am saving myself from all those other terrible stories that I can do nothing about.

When my grandmother was still alive, bad news was her currency. One of the first things she'd always say when we got together was, "Did you see that terrible story about those poor children?"

And then she'd proceed to unpack the events and pick over all the sad details of the latest horror story.

That's not an environment I want for my kids. I want them growing up believing that the world is mostly a safe and beautiful place, because it is.

There will always be terrible things happening, but hearing about them doesn't prepare you better if they are going to happen to you. And knowing about them doesn't improve your life in any tangible way.

I refuse to let my children grow up in fear of the world around them, so there's no news in my house. No news is good news, if you ask me.