It’s something that Flora, now 11, has experienced first-hand. She’s the daughter of journalist Donna Ferguson and was definitely engaged with developments during the pandemic, such as putting an eye mask over her doll’s mouth. Flora herself recalls: “I remember feeling annoyed that there was something about Covid every single day […] but when we went into lockdown, I think it was important for me to know the news about Covid, even if it wasn’t very good.”
Flora’s class also sometimes watched Newsround. “When the reports about the parties came out, everyone was like, ‘We hate Boris Johnson’,” she exclaims.
Giving Children An Active Role In The News
To help children manage difficult topics like the pandemic, McClymont says: “It is helpful to tell children what ‘role’ they play.” When discussing climate change, for example, adults can “explain what they can do rather than simply [highlight] the catastrophic events of the situation.”
McClymont also highlights the importance of discussing broader cultural aspects about why news might mean different things to different people. “I think it’s vital children are encouraged to see nuance, tone, and bias in news reporting as it will help them build cultural sensitivity, empathy, and compassion,” she explains.
Rosalie Minnitt, who creates educational content on children’s TV about topics like bullying and internet safety, agrees. “I think the most important thing is to give children back their sense of control and let them lead the discussion. It is most important to create an open, honest, and safe space to talk about the things that worry them, and work from there.”
While these might both seem like advice for parents and carers at first glance, they’re also themes journalists should try to weave within their storytelling. Even if you’re not writing for children, it’s likely to be consumed by them.