News. It’s everywhere, all the time. When we grew up, news was local … or national only if it was a major story on the world stage. It made a difference in our lives. It came either through the morning newspaper, at a specific time on the radio or television, or in a more reflective manner in magazine features.
The 24-hour news cycle has changed all that. It has opened the floodgates in news feeds on any subject—good, bad, sleazy or bloody–anytime, anywhere. We seem to have replaced significance and pertinence with constancy. What exactly is “breaking news”? Everything! That’s not necessarily good because it provides a skewed view of the world. Any anti-social, embarrassing, violent, disruptive, or otherwise negative event can be in our consciousness in a moment’s notice, regardless of its origin. The avalanche of news can desensitize us to its impact, and the reach and volume of stories and photos can overwhelm us.
Some helpful resources
How do we help our teens deal with such a plethora of information? The answer is not to disconnect. Rather, one response is to turn the news into a learning opportunity, helping teens sort the information, select and interpret the important stories and form an educated opinion. Two programs might help.
The PBS NewsHour Extra helps high school students comprehend events and gain insight into why they should care. The program offers background to news stories and lesson plans. It provides opportunities for students to publish essays, or produce audio or video recordings about news events.
The “Newspapers in Education” program provides access to electronic newspapers from 40 cities across the United States to K-12 classrooms. Studies show that students whose teachers use newspapers in their classrooms score better on standardized tests, demonstrate better reading, writing, and comprehension skills, are more politically aware and exhibit stronger feelings of civic responsibility
Making sense of the news
It is important that we teach our teens to sort out the substantive issues from the sensationalized trash disguised as news. Thomas Jefferson said, “…wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government…” He was, of course, referring to the major issues in our society.
Your job, dad, is to guide your teen through the fluff, the sensational, the fictitious and the sleaze and help focus on major issues that make a difference.
Look for an opportunity to discuss news stories. Ask your teen what he or she considers the most important news story of the week and why. Pose a few questions that will cause your son or daughter to consider the impact of relationships, attitudes and shifts reflected in the news — questions that will place him or her in the circumstance described. This helps connect teens to the world and develops their skills to think for themselves.