Thursday, May 24, 2007

Protecting children from the news

Alongside the modern phenomenon of public grief for tragic events, we now have the need for mass counselling for those affected, however indirectly, by those events. A pupil at one of our local schools recently died in an accident; it was a dreadful occurrence for her family and friends but counselling was offered to every pupil in the school by a team of psychologists drafted in for the purpose. Television crews and newspaper reporters were at the school gates, ready to zoom in on sad faces and to ask the children about their feelings. In no time, a shrine of flowers and cards appeared outside the school and I'm cynical enough to think a newshound might have laid the first one. It would have taken a very brave youngster to admit they hadn't known the girl, or (horror of horrors) hadn't actually liked her.

The media need a new angle to keep the Madeleine story in the news, so the focus has shifted to the impact the story is having on the nation's children. Experts are appearing on television to advise parents on how to deal with their children's worries and distress about Madeleine and the newspapers are providing their own wisdom. How to tell your children about Maddy in today's Telegraph is typical of the genre. It is quite a clever way to peddle news: first create mass hysteria, fuel it with yellow ribbons and shrines then cash in again by convincing everyone they have been traumatised by the story and sell them a series of 'helpful' articles.

Here are my tips for parents:

  • Don't let your four year old watch the news. In fact, if you want your child to develop a healthy, happy attitude to life in general, don't have a television set at all.
  • Most four year olds have no interest in newspapers and most parents like to read their papers in peace and quiet. Keep the papers away from the four year olds.
  • Remember that old saying 'not in front of the children' and don't discuss distressing stories over breakfast.
  • Don't wear yellow ribbons or take flowers to street corner memorials, it's bound to lead to awkward questions.

It's quite simple really. It used to be called responsible parenting and child psychologists used to work with children who were genuinely traumatised.


  1. I fully agree with you. I ranted on about the grief counseling scam in the comments of this post on the Daily Duck:

    Let's not forget the army of "grief counselors" who are on call 24-7 for the next school shooting so that they can descend on the school like some Jesuit SWAT team after a new new band of savages has been discovered in the jungle.

    No doubt the grief counseling litany includes some nonsense about letting go of the desire for "vengeance", (ie. justice), and ignoring anger for the sake of just "remembering the victims". I would be thoroughly satisfied if some group of irate parents filed a lawsuit against the counselors for injecting religion into a public school. School should be a "no nonsense" zone. Unfortunately our schools act more like nonsense magnets.

    This public wussification of America is a joint effort by elected officials and the "caring" professions. Local officials are thrust into the national spotlight when some newsworthy tragedy occurs in their town, so they want to defend their place in history by taking some kind of action, any action, to deal with the situation after the fact. (No doubt they will be sued by parents for not preventing the tragedy in the first place). So when they get the call from the grief counselor SWAT team, they are all too happy to give their consent to let them have at the vulnerable students.

    As I mentioned above, there is also this notion that it is possible for forward thinking public servants to predict and prevent every tragedy that can possibly occur. I blame the Moon landings. Ever since then we've been infected with this notion that "we can land a man on the Moon, so we sould be able to do such and such. I was listening to a talk show on NPR a while ago after the sarin gas attack on the Japanese subway. Some twit called into the show who had been in Japan when it occured, and he was expressing his outrage over the fact that when he called the American consulate to find out where he could pick up a gas mask, the consulate official he talked to had no advice to give him. Gee, I wonder why the consulate in Japan wouldn't have foreseen that a poison gas attack was inevitable among the peaceful citizens of Japan? That's their job, isn't it? To protect Americans abroad from every possible risk and threat? I'm surprised that they aren't handing out condoms.

    And don't get me started on this talk about "we must let the healing begin". The healing can start once all the guilty people are dead.

    September 02, 2006 5:34 AM
    Duck said...

  2. Thanks for the link. I wonder what characteristics we are fashioning in our youngsters? They must always consider themselves as victims and they will always need an outside agency - therapists of some kind - to sort out all their (perceived) problems. Having grown up in the 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' generation, I can't see what people fuss about nowadays.


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