Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Television Tuesday: The News

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(not for young viewers)

As children get older, it is important for them to become aware of world events. And watching the news can be a good way for them to learn how our government system actually works when they learn about the theory of it in history class. Moreover, we parents may want to watch the news in the evening, before the kids go to bed. How can we make sure this exposure is positive?

First, I think it is important for children to become aware of the fact that bad things do happen. I’ve personally know people who were sheltered from the realities of natural disasters, war, and even the nature of death throughout their childhood. When they finally learned about these things as teens, the shock was pretty traumatic. As long as parents are open about explaining things, answering questions, and allaying fears, learning about the bad things in life early makes for a stronger better-balanced individual.

That said, the news today exhibits many negative traits in pursuit of higher ratings. While we want our children to be educated and informed, it can be difficult to balance that with the poor behavior and sexual innuendo constantly pummeling the airwaves! So here are some tips:

  • Find news outlets that make a clear distinction between reporting and editorializing.

  • When news commentators start behaving inappropriately (yelling, interrupting each other, being insulting) turn off the tv for a little while and explain to your child that the adults on the show were not behaving properly.

  • If possible, find a way to view or listen to the news without commercials. At the very least, try to DVR the show so you can fast forward through the ads. Many highly sexualized ads run during popular news shows (Viagra, Levitra, Trojan). News shows that advertise also make a point of sensationalizing in their commercials.

  • Avoid shows that focus on celebrity gossip and sex scandals. It’s important for children (especially Aspies) to learn to prioritize properly. Seeing Tiger Woods’ marital problems alongside the Haitian earthquake aftermath doesn’t help.

  • When a reporter steps outside their purview, stating an opinion during his report, point it out. With older children, ask if they noticed it.

  • Subscribe to the paper or read it at the library. Find a newspaper you like, and have your child look through the front section on a regular basis. Then have them tell you about an article they read. Older children should also look at the business section.

My recommendations for news shows include:

  • The Newshour with Jim Lehrer on PBS (no ads, clear reporting with an obvious distinction between fact and opinion, reporters and commentators are generally polite on the show, avoids scandals and gossip, reporters are appropriately dressed)

  • BBC Radio (clear reporting, few ads, includes stories on science and historical finds, reporters and commentators are generally polite)

  • The Nightly Business Report on PBS (I recommend this show for older children learning about the economy. NBR gives clear explanations of the market and relates the business news to the headlines when appropriate. No ads, reporters are appropriately dressed)

  • The Wall Street Journal (solid news reporting without sensationalizing, editorials tend to be pretty well-thought out, too)

  • News stations on MSN Radio (While MSN Radio includes many standard news stations, such as Fox and CNN, the advertising is minimal. I do caution, though, that many of the commentators can be pretty rude on these shows, and they talk about scandals and gossip a lot, so choose carefully)

  • The Economist (in depth reports and editorials. This is for older kids who have the attention span for it)

  • Science News For Kids


  1. These are all, except the WSJ, liberal publications/shows. What do you suggest for conservatives?

  2. Thank you for your comment. The news sources we cited were chosen for appropriateness for children if and when possible. Unfortunately, news has become highly polarized politically in recent years.

    The Asperger Society is an organization made up of many political philosophies, religions, and lifestyles. The appearance of political bias was unintentional. I would like to note that MSN Radio links to many news sources representing many political views.

    The Christian Science Monitor and Investors Business Daily are appropriate sources as well. Foxnews unfortunately, like CNN, MSNBC, and other news stations tends to sensationalize and discuss many inappropriate topics.

    We recommend that parents thoroughly investigate and filter all media sources for appropriateness according to their own opinions.

    ~Isaac Kight, President
    Asperger Society