13 December 2008

Terror attacks, Live telecasts and the child psychology

"Who are these terrorists and why are they killing people so indiscriminately? Why can't police catch them? Is it safe to stay in hotels? What if someone kills us when we are travelling or out for shopping??..." these were some of the several questions asked by my daughter, who is in grade 3, when most of the Indian news channels were showing 'Live & Exclusive' coverage of the Mumbai terror attacks. My wife wanted her to remain away from these scenes for which she did not have much to reply. Yet she couldn’t help keep her eyes off the television screen. Even after two weeks of the incident, my daughter recalls the horrific scenes and tries to put questions which obviously she doesn't have any answer to. Today, during a conversation over phone, she quietly told me "papa, come soon and we will go for a trip...anywhere but Mumbai". Let me mention that we have got some relatives and friends living in Mumbai, and we have been planning to visit them for quite sometime.

As news of the unfolding Mumbai terror attacks spread over, a mixed reaction of shock, horror, sorrow and sympathy resulted. But soon this fellow feeling started to become a TRP bonanza for India’s electronic media. It lasted well over 60-hours. Even before the bloody saga in Mumbai had ended, some of the media were busy telling complete bio-data of the culprits. Nothing official had come out, but the smart media was already reporting on the terrorist's nationality and the weapons they carried. Most parents were watching the drama unfolding of the terror attack live and their children avidly watched it too - picking up new idioms and words. In short, media were actively engaged in amplifying the issue with hundreds of 'exclusives'. But, was there anything like 'exclusive' news, particularly during those 60-hours, except to show off the repeated telecast of the terrifying incidents?

I think media deliberately tried to make the incident sensational to gain TRP ratings. The image of a grenade being thrown from a window, the body of terrorist falling out from a window, commandos sliding down a rope from a chopper as they were dropped on to a terrace - all shown live - made for compulsive watching. The drama kept on unfolding morning though evening, day after day: much longer than an action packed Bollywood movie. Obviously, children get anxious and the "terror trauma” may have a lasting effect on them. Parents should talk to the children and explain the incident carefully. Many children who are vulnerable could have nightmares and find it even difficult to sleep. But, the point is how should we explain these things to them?

Well, I am not a child psychologist to tell you here that how exactly we should explain terrorism to our children. However, I found one good article on this issue which, I would like to share with all of you (click here to read the article). The article emphasizes on the fact that parent should be calm and tolerant while answering to the child's questions. We should refrain from saying things like, 'you do not know anything', 'you will understand nothing', 'do not ask silly questions'. It is good that the child is asking questions rather than making judgments on his own. We should keep in mind the following tips while talking to our child about terrorism:
  • We should encourage children to voice their opinions about terrorism. Adolescents should be encouraged to talk about their feelings on terror strikes and violent attacks.
  • We should boost the child's confidence by using phrases like 'good question' or 'interesting question'.
  • We should listen to the children carefully to understand their psyche.
  • We should tell the children how we are feeling about the situation. We should be able to express our feelings in words. For example, 'I am feeling depressing to see how terrorists attacked innocent people'.
  • We may ask the children to note down their opinions on terrorism and terrorists in order to get a clear idea of what they understand by terrorism.
  • etc. etc..
I agree that reality needs to be shown to the children too, as everybody learns from what is happening around him. It is for parents to guide and navigate them to what is happening. In a sense, parents have to act as filters. But, what about news channels who always try to make things sensational by stretching a news out of proportion? Can't we do something to make the media responsible enough, rather than just expecting that the media would rectify and reform themselves someday??

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आकार on December 13, 2008 at 7:08 PM said...

no one thinks about other...
media are competing to telecast the news.. to do live coverage... they are asking sh*t question to the people who are around there...

and nobody think, that what would be the effect on children.

Dilip Acharya on December 13, 2008 at 9:00 PM said...

Let me tell you my own experiences. As I am in India these days, I was little more conscious and sitting in front of the 'idiot box' whenever I was free during that 'notorious' live telecast time.

In the beginning, my six years old daughter use to ask me "Baba! yo k bha ko?"

I could hardly explain her about it, as she won't understand the terms like 'terrorism' and 'terrorist'.

But, as the result of repeated telecast of footage's and clips of fire, smoke and blood which lasted almost 4-5 days, later I felt that she was also bit worried. Thus I simply told her "choor aayo re Mumbai ma". But I realized her fear clearly when she asked me the vary question: "yaha pani aayo bhane k garne?"

Actually it is media's duty to provide us information, but as you have mentioned in this post, most of the T.V. Channels here were just cashing that incident as an 'opportunity' just to raise their TRP.

I don't know what kind of information you are getting from your place now-a-days, but here; everyday, a new rumor is presented as Hot Cake, and I feel there should be some moral guidelines to stop it.

Thanks for your tips and sharing this with us.

Natsu said...

There must be both good and bad effect of such news on child psychology though I cannot enumerate good nor bad ones here.

As for blaming the media, it is another blame game. Making the news controversial, hot, sensational is their business and they do that very well - that is for the interest of the commercial channels and the government channel will for sure show a more less dramatic coverage - that for the interest of the government.

It is finally us who are to decide what we watch and with whom. There is always too many bull-shits in the TV channels and movies. It is the parents who should decide what they should let the children watch and what not - not the TV channels nor the censor boards.

If I were to blame then I would rather blame the parents who let their children watch the news.

Sumiran on December 14, 2008 at 11:34 AM said...

Very thoughtful expression. Actually human's collective mind seems to be not well-evoluted. The whole business of media is to display crime, more than 90% of movies are voilence oriented, provocating latet anger and hatred. List goes on. I wonder, are we people also attracted to these stuff subconsciously?

Anonymous said...

Did you know?
Researches suggest that children who watch significant amounts of television and movie violence are more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior, attitudes and values. Children are affected at any age, but young children are most vulnerable to the effects of media violence. Young children
* are more easily impressionable.
* have a harder time distinguishing between fantasy and reality.
* cannot easily discern motives for violence.
* learn by observing and imitating.
As a result of witnessing violence on TV or video games,
* Children may increase anti-social and aggressive behavior.
* Children may become less sensitive to violence and those who suffer from violence.
* Children may view the world as violent and mean, becoming more fearful of being a victim of violence.
* Children may desire to see more violence in entertainment and real life.
* Children will view violence as an acceptable way to settle conflicts.

Alok said...

Good post!
You see, terrorism in itself is a major public health concern. The impact of violence against the civilian population is reinforced by the media reporting. Media has a basic obligation to inform people about what is happening around; however, Indian media needs to go some distance to be able to show the news in a decent way like BBC, CNN and so on... Terrorism has a psychological impact not only on its direct victims but also on the population as a whole, particularly to children.
I agree with your concluding sentences "I agree that reality needs to be shown to the children too, as everybody learns from what is happening around him. It is for parents to guide and navigate them to what is happening. In a sense, parents have to act as filters."
Probably, its our duty to deal rationally with the children psychology coz, it seems impossible to deal with terrorism!

Anonymous said...

Dear आकार, you are right that normally our society, particularly the media, is less sensitive towards children when it comes to dealing with 'anti-social' elements. The intense competition existing in media coverage has resulted in 'hyper exaggeration' of the facts and we are forced to watch more 'noise' than the 'news'!
Dilipjee, Thanks for sharing your experience and feelings. Regarding media coverage and TRP stuffs, I totally agree with you. BTW, we too have access to the information thanks to the live streaming of almost all the news channels on internet.
Dear Natsu, I agree that there are both good as well as bad aspect of these things. I have mentioned the fact that reality needs to be shown to the children too, as everybody learns from what is happening around him. It is for parents to guide and navigate them to what is happening. In a sense, parents have to act as filters. However, I still feel that there should be some 'moral guidelines' for the media. Is it unfair to expect an unbiased factual interpretation of the incidents from our 'intelligent free media'?
Thanks Netrajee for your invaluable thoughts. I think movies are the reflection to our society and imaginations. so, you are probably right in saying that people are attracted to the violence subconsciously.
Thanks to my 'Anonymous' friend for providing additional info on the child psychology issue.
Dear Alok, I appreciate your views. & yes, you are right that Indian media needs to go some distance to be able to show the news in a decent way like BBC, CNN and so on. I am glad that you liked the post.

runescape gold on January 4, 2009 at 1:11 PM said...

Very good!

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