Let’s face it, the last couple of years have been less than ideal.
The COVID pandemic came out of nowhere to stun the world. Most of us found ourselves wearing surgical masks, obsessively washing and disinfecting our hands, and discovering the benefits—and drawbacks—of Zoom meetings. Some of us, myself included, stepped in to continue our kid’s education when schools were shuttered in fear of the disease.
All of us lived in the hope that our loved ones would escape a plague that, worldwide, was killing tens of thousands every day.
All of this, of course, was happening while our neighbours to the South seemed to be losing their collective minds. A never-ending flow of lies, corruption, and hatred streamed to us through multiple media outlets, and we wondered if, like Covid, similar breakdowns in social order would infect our own backyards.
In case we didn’t have enough to worry about, a young Swedish activist named Greta Thunberg was simultaneously on every platform to remind us that climate change threatens to destroy us all and that world governments are failing to do what is needed to save humanity.
And, oh yeah, Russia decided to start a war of conquest with its neighbour, all the while threatening to use nuclear weapons if anyone tried to stop them.
Like I said, less than ideal.
So, what should adults be doing to help kids deal with what they see in the media and online?
I recently read some advice on this topic from an esteemed psychologist who suggested that parents limit their kid’s exposure to the news.
Statistics Canada reports that about 90 percent of kids in middle school have cell phones and 50 percent of those kids check their phones every 30 minutes or so. More than half use their phones while watching TV.
Sooooo…short of confiscating phones and computers and perhaps locking the kids in a cave, the concept of limiting exposure is just, well, cute.
The first step is to make certain that you know what you’re talking about. Educate yourself on what’s happening by reading and listening to a variety of credible sources. Avoid any media outlets that have defended themselves from court action by saying that no reasonable person would believe a word that they say. (Yes, that really happened. Google it.)
So, what can you do?
A good place to start is to listen to your kids. Find out what they are concerned about and what they know about what’s going on in the world, but don’t force it. Consider the age and development of the young person in your life and try to find out what, if anything, is causing them stress.
And while limiting their access to information is a fool’s errand, you might want to open a discussion about what they are seeing online and in the media. Talk about how not all sources are reliable and how you can fact-check what you see and hear, both in the media and from their friends.
If, like me, some of the young people in your life are teens, the discussion can get a wee bit more in-depth.
For example, I’ve talked to my granddaughter about some recent events. I asked her why she thought that the coverage of some stories had been overwhelming. Was it because it was a newsworthy story or was it to boost ratings and clicks? Did the coverage provide new information?
That led to a discussion on the mission of real news outlets.
Another suggestion is to talk about what your child, or in my case, grandchild, can do.
Any troubling event or challenge presents opportunities.
For example, a natural disaster might be the springboard for developing a family plan in case of a similar event. It’s also a chance to find out what others are doing and what can be done to help.
Finally, don’t be afraid to broaden the discussion and talk about how kindness, cooperation and courage have helped people survive in the past. Those same things will always be important, no matter what comes next.