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I have an 8-year old and a 4-year old. My 8-year-old recently asked me "Are wars are real?" At 8 years old, my elders watched TV news so I got little inklings of politics, wars, crime, etc. But we don't want today's TV news in our house. Both my children have tablets and limited internet access. Is there a good source of good curated age-appropriate news? Preferably something streamable.

In a related question from 2011 PBS newshour and BBC newsround were recommended. PBS newshour is sometimes heavy, but maybe we should try it as a family. BBC Newsround focuses a bit too much on British pop culture and sports but it is certainly safe and digestable.

Update I am really having trouble accepting any answer here. Many people posted insightful comments giving good parenting advice. I appreciate that. Some provided other alternatives to news. But most seem to say there is no good source, while I have found too many to research them all! It seems like many people wanted to give parenting advice rather than answer the question. Perhaps it was poor of me to ask the community to do my research for me.

Since I posted this, I found DogoNews and Time For Kids to be my good candidates. Both are on the Common Sense Media's list of news for kids. Youngzine seems to vary: one day it was celebrity news, but today it looks earth sciencey which seems quite good.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Catija, Bugs, user16557, threetimes, L.B. Jul 19 '17 at 20:05

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    BBC newsround is excellent! – user3791372 Jul 2 '17 at 17:28
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    Age appropriate is terribly subjective. Most of my life as a child was not, by today's standards, "age appropriate". But it was normal in the late 1960s and early 1970s – pojo-guy Jul 2 '17 at 18:43
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Rory Alsop Jul 5 '17 at 11:56

15 Answers 15

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My personal opinion is that there are no sites I would consider appropriately curated.

This is something you should watch with them, discuss with them, and if needed, change channel.

I don't know of any unbiased news channels, either on television, or via the internet (so your comment about not allowing TV news but allowing tablets doesn't really help you) so it is down to you to help your kids make sense of the world.

Hiding them away from wars etc is going to cause problems - if they are unaware of them, and don't build in to their moral model how much wars hurt the world, then how can they help change the world to avoid them when they grow up?

That said, the important role for you is to mentor and monitor this. Be part of the news watching / learning experience with them.

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    And also avoid judging their opinions on those subjects. Instead ask them how they feel while sitting next to them – Christiaan Westerbeek Jul 5 '17 at 9:17
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If you don't start teaching them yourself, they will learn it from their friends. If you wait until you think they're"ready", you'll wait until it's too late.

The news media has always been subject to manipulation for propaganda purposes, and awareness of that is an important step towards developing critical thinking skills.

Be rational about the news, get multiple viewpoints. Just because a viewpoint differs from yours does not mean it is wrong. Be aware of your own biases, and remember that they're kids, not idiots.

Accept that they may know things you don't expect, and respect their knowledge . As a child, I remember getting chewed out after listening to a graphic description of a hostage situation and commenting that it sounded like the hostage taker had schizophrenia. In the followup newscast the next day they specifically stated that the hostage taker was schizophrenic. I lost a lot of respect for my father overnight.

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    +1 "If you wait until you think they're"ready", you'll wait until it's too late." Parenting advice that should be more widely spread. – Shane Jul 4 '17 at 13:59
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    +1 for the first paragraph (and the whole answer, actually - including the part where your child can have bright comments/ideas). I noticed that introducing children slowly to natural things (nudity, sex, violence, ...) really helped them to build up character and not always be the ones who learn from friends, but sometimes be the ones teaching :) – WoJ Jul 4 '17 at 15:29
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Just my two cents, I think one great way to get started with world news is to get a World Map or a globe.

That way, when they look at the news headlines and images, they have a mental reference point.

For example, they may hear of deteriorating North Korea - Japan relations, and looking at the map will help to cement their understanding of why those two countries are making such a big fuss.

In the end, world news is full of minute details, and knowing the bigger picture helps in understanding as a whole.

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    We have an Oregon Scientific Smartglobe, and we use it for exactly that purpose. – Moby Disk Jul 3 '17 at 22:57
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The BBC is generally pretty good. Of course any individual article will have it's own particular slant and the BBC does put out opinion based pieces but news is generally pretty neutral overall and the BBC does a pretty good job as a whole of being balanced, which is arguably better than eliminating all trace of opinion.

Also mainstream (ie those which are part of general news broadcasts as opposed to documentaries or more in-depth articles on specific subjects) BBC news articles tend to do a pretty god job of avoiding anything too graphic.

Clearly there is also a balance to be struck here. You probably don't want to expose young children to the full grim realities of warfare, but neither do you want to overly sanitise it. Equally by its nature the news tends to report the most dramatic events and it is very easy for anyone, let alone children to get a bit of a skewed perspective of the world just based on what is newsworthy.

So perhaps the biggest challenge is to give a broad view with good context.

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I don't tell my children a great deal about current news yet. We do talk about what is going on in the world around them. I don't personally care to watch the news myself, I tend to read it and so does my spouse.

I do tell my 10yr old that news sources are biased and you have to take that into account. I also tell him that his parents are biased and that also has to be taken into account. We have our own opinions and sometimes as people I don't agree with my spouse's take on certain things. I personally find that to be the most valuable thing my kids are learning, that two people they think are both intelligent, well read and good people, can and do see world events through different perspectives and bring to the table rational, polite discord. I don't think personally that it's terribly important that my 10 year old really be completely informed on all world events at the moment. I think it's more important that he sees examples of adults that are informed, engaged, and aware. His ability to actually rationalize or understand things of world importance is going to be relatively limited at this age still. I find it more important in the stepping stones to understanding how it all works, to take him to town hall meetings. He can see local people addressing the local city council, complain, have disagreements with current policy, ask for a vote on an issue, etc.

My take on it is that becoming an empowered, aware world citizen is a series of baby steps. I teach them about finances through a series of small things too, not by having them sit down and go through all of our family financials. I might some day, but today, that could lead to undo worry, misunderstandings, and stress that isn't legitimate. In my mind, knowing my own kids, I don't feel they are ready to digest tensions between countries and threats when they can do nothing about that. Like I said, we do discuss it, they are welcome to ask things, but I prefer to be the one delivering that information versus sitting down and not knowing what someone else may say.

My approach is no doubt influenced by growing up in the cold war era and having a lot of useless worry and stress in my own childhood. I don't want that for my kids. I want them to care about the things we can do something about, not lay in bed at night wondering if they will reach adulthood. I have no doubt my parents had no clue it was impacting me that way. I wasn't a child prone to stress. I do not recall thinking about it in the day, but I do recall laying in bed at night hoping we didn't get nuked.

  • I must had been a very relaxed kid. I watched "the day after" and it never kept me awake. – Rui F Ribeiro Jul 5 '17 at 5:55
  • Fiction never bothered me either as a child, it was news reports, etc. There is an implicit understanding by some age that a movie is a story, even if the story is a scary one. – threetimes Jul 5 '17 at 6:00
  • So so... the noght if the living dead before sleeping certainly kept me awake. And plain news still bores me to death. I prefer to see the stock market news channel. – Rui F Ribeiro Jul 5 '17 at 6:54
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This is specifically for the 8 years old one: Don't use television / streams / video in general as the primary source for news.

Go for the "slow" route of newspapers, prints and similar stuff. This firstly is great to control the graphic content as newspapers tend to publish more text, less images - and that is what news are all about. Secondly, you are not overwhelmed with so many different stories - you can only read so much at a time. Thirdly, you can discuss the stuff that you son read more easily with him, as the paper won't run away that fast.

As for the choice of newspaper: Choose one that tends to be the last one to catch up on "hot" news and that takes the privacy of people serious.

As a bonus your child will learn to read and process written information faster.


Anecdote

When I was that age I started to read about the war in Iraq. Actually that was the way I started to consume news. I saw those nice pictures of tanks and started to read the bold text first... After some time I would read the whole article (which took ages) and managed to get a grasp of what the world may be.

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I agree with @Rory Alsop that there is no unbiased news channel, but there are some that are more obviously interested in reporting sensational news (bloodshed, explosions, crashes) than more noteworthy news. I agree with whoever recommended NPR and the BBC; they are not so hungry for viewers that like sensationalism.

If you want to monitor content, you can start by reading one news story a day that you've chosen (and maybe edited for brevity), and discuss it, making the relevant connections. Then two stories, then three, as they come to appreciate what "news" is, global and local. As an exercise in recognizing cognitive biases, you can read the same story from two or three different outlets (I don't think a mature 4 year old is too young for this.) That way, you avoid the horrific news that might traumatize a child, but are starting to prepare them for television news at some point.

You can also look at news outlets for young people, such as Channel One News, etc. A search should lead you to multiple such sites; pick those you find most suitable.

I think, though, that as @Rory said, the most important thing is to watch the content together and discuss as is appropriate.

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I know it's unusual for an answer this far down in the list to get sufficient notice to have an impact, but I think my thoughts on this are distinct from those given above, and therefore worth sharing -

Think of a child's world like a microcosm. At birth, their world is really only themselves. Over time it expands to include mommy and daddy and the house they live in, and around the time the child starts to understand language, their microcosm becomes explosively bigger as more and more concepts are grasped. By adulthood, a person's microcosm has ideally expanded to include a substantial cross-section of the world - but I doubt any of us would claim to grok the world in its entirety at any point in life. At least, though, as adults we should have the idea that the whole planet (maybe the whole universe) is our world, and therefore things happening elsewhere in it are worth knowing about and understanding: basically, the scope of our world more or less dictates what we determine to be worth knowing and retaining, so it is useless to try to teach a child something for which they have no frame of reference, or of which they cannot see the relevance.

From a conceptual standpoint, I know it would be useless to try to discuss war with my 3-year-old (beyond maybe saying that a war is a fight between a lot of people at once that usually lasts for a long time, and a lot of people get hurt). If I were to go beyond the concept of war to try to discuss specific wars with him, it would be even more useless - "Russia and the US are sort of fighting a proxy-war in Syria, using the Syrian civil war as cover, and the war against terrorism in the form of ISIL as a front and partial validation for their actions," would go over the heads of most adults, let alone children. And as complex as the situation in Syria is, that level of complexity is not out of the ordinary for modern warfare.

Geographically speaking, my son understands the concept of "city," in the sense that it is the big place in which our house is located, and he understands "state" in the sense that it is the big place where our city is located, and he even understands that there are other states (I think only because he's lived in a few different ones already). For a while, dad was in a country on the other side of the world, and we used a globe and flashlight to show him why it was morning for dada when it was night for us, and from that talk he started to get the idea of different countries, and even of "planet earth," - but again from a strictly geographical standpoint.

I am certain your 8-year-old has quite a few more concepts under his belt than any 3-yr-old could ever hope to have, but the question of "are wars real" doesn't presuppose that your son grasps the concept of a country as a political entity, which I believe is a necessary foundational concept to discussing specific current wars. It doesn't even presuppose a well founded concept of war.

I would say that rather than relying on some form of media to be a good synopsis of current events, and to have a kid-friendly filter, YOU are the best filter for your kids. Start working with them on the concepts of the world as a whole, and of other countries in it (I saw a suggestion of using a world map or globe in an earlier answer, which is a great idea, but videos can be great for this too - like the "planet earth" videos that the discovery channel made, or "baraka," or looking online at videos/pictures of the food/clothing/environment/houses/religious sites of other countries), and getting them familiar with the idea that we all live differently, but we do not live in isolation from each other, and sometimes that leads to disagreements. In extreme cases, the governing bodies of countries will choose to use violence against each other, and we call that war. These disagreements can be ideological, or they can be about controlling scarce resources, or both.

Anyway, I could go on and on in terms of specifics - because war is an extremely complex issue, incorporating religion and politics and economics and a horde of other things (including civil wars and wars with non-state actors) - but the idea in a nutshell is this: if your son is asking about whether wars happen, that is a strong indicator that he is ready for the concepts behind war, as implicit in this question is a lack of understanding as to why wars would ever happen. There is more of a request for understanding than for facts about current events. However, using real wars to illustrate concepts is a good idea - I'd suggest the conflict between Israel and Palestine, because on the surface it's an ideological war, but it is also about controlling scarce fresh-water resources in the region (such as the aquifers, and the lake in southern Jordan).

This was an area of knowledge that both my parents and my school largely ignored when I was growing up, though both told me to read the newspaper, and my mom played NPR around the house and in the car all the time. No one attempted to create any kind of global context for understanding what was going on, however, so I never cared or bothered to retain anything about it for longer than strictly necessary to satisfy teachers etc. I was so blind to the importance of events outside "my world" that even though I was in middle school when 9/11 happened, my response was, "and this matters because...?"

I do not recommend this approach. My parents more or less trusted my school to teach me what I needed to know, and schools in general are more motivated to teach children about the country they live in than about the dynamics of the world as a whole - at least within any kind of holistic framework. We did have assignments like "find an article about something happening in another country and present it to the class," but these were always curiosity pieces, not seen as relevant to our lives per se, and quickly forgotten.

It's all about expanding your son's microcosm through the teaching of concepts. Once he feels like the things happening elsewhere in the world matter to him, I would bet his learning becomes somewhat self-directed, and as long as he is reading rather than watching the news, I doubt he will see anything he can't handle - it would likely be appropriate for you to help him choose reading material, though :)

  • This is really awesome and well-written advice. It mirrors my thoughts since my children were born and I have similar reflections on my growth into seeing the bigger world around me and how it impacts. Thank you. – Moby Disk Jul 14 '17 at 2:46
  • @MobyDisk I'm glad it resonates with you :) – MAA Jul 14 '17 at 2:52
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Get them to watch CNN... hahaha hahahah hahahahaha hahahahaha hahahahahaha

No seriously Actually it's more important to teach them principles and questioning things. Explain things to them verbally, or go through some newspaper articles with them, and question what is happening, and how it relates to the principles you teach them, and what is right and wrong.

If you must absolutely give them the ins and outs of wars why is it bad for ISIS to cut off peoples heads but all good for Saudi Arabia too. Why are brutal Kings sent guns, and brutal dictators given hot lead?

Teach them why it's ok to bomb Iran for wanting to develop weapons we already have, but not OK to bash your neighbour because a branch on his tree is getting a bit thick and you fear he may club you with it.

Principles, principles, principles... it's the only anecdote to propaganda

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Understanding the past is key to understanding the present. I would start by seeking out some age-appropriate world history material - either curriculum (more efficient), or a small number of hand-picked documentaries or even just hands-on conversation (more accessible) - and possibly expand into general social studies. Where current news is a fleeting snapshot of complex issues, I think history will be far more accessible and instructive than the news, due to situations developing rather than simply existing. As a bonus, the passage of time soothes emotional engagement with events. Far more balanced and rational, age-appropriate treatment of the subjects involved will be readily available, not to mention the unearthing of far more detail and factual accuracy than we have with events still unfolding.

To accelerate the process of preparing children with the critical thinking needed, perhaps focus on the history of a single specific region (probably not the Middle East) to ready them for news just from that region, before letting them expand to the whole world. While we underestimate what children can handle, that's a lot for even adults to handle.

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First you should get your child interested (and they seem to be already), and then you should give them background on ways to rationally think about the news. It is more important at this time to teach the children to think rather than to just expose to the current scoop.

What I do with my kid when some subject piques his interest, is to use a platform they likes[sic] (youtube) and pre-select / curate some videos about the subject beforehand. There are tons of child-safe fact-checking channels out there. I watch the video beforehand to see if it has something inappropriate (a strong image, cursing, etc).

Then I invite them to watch some videos together. We watch some gaming videos to lighten the mood, then I bring up the subject. If they does[sic] not outright refuse, I load the video URL and we watch together. After watching, we talk about it. It is very important at this point to let the children think for themselves. I make questions about the subject to spark critical and analytical thinking.

For example, if the subject is wars, I'd get one of those "today I learned" about ancient / medieval wars that include some talk about motivation. Maybe follow up with some video on modern wars if they are still interested. Then some of the questions I'd ask could be:

  • Why do you think people go to war?
  • Are wars really necessary?
  • The ________ waged war because they wanted _______. What do you think of them for doing that?
  • Do you think a country has the right to defend themselves?
  • How do you think wars could be avoided?

Very important here: the purpose is to spark critical/analytical thinking, not to indoctrinate the children. Of course as a parent/caregiver some indoctrination will happen, but the key point is to allow the children to think for themselves. Do not talk back/down them on their answers. Don't criticize the children.

My kid often asks my own opinion on the subject too. I only voice myself after they have finished talking. If my view disagrees with something they voiced about, I point out those conflicting views and ask him about this disagreement. As an authority figure, it is important not to push your own view over theirs. Then we hold a quick debate. If I see they are tiring of the subject, we engage in more gaming/fun videos and I later bring it up again.

Then I hope the seeds of this knowledge thirst have been well planted. The children will seek out news and be better prepared to deal with them.

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Children often can't process the a straight news broadcast because they don't have the background knowledge to make sense of it, so they'll get bored and switch off. But there are other, more accessible ways of learning about current affairs. My kids will happily sit through a topical comedy or satirical show just for the silly jokes, and their social primate brain will kick into action and they will try to puzzle out what the adults are laughing at. Little by little they learn who the recurring characters are and something about the topics under discussion. Before long your ankle-biter is an engaged citizen with an opinion on the major political players. When I was young got hooked into politics by watching Spitting Image on TV. Now my kids listen to the podcast editions of Radio 4's News Quiz and The Now Show in the car on the school run.

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This answer is focusing solely on the title of your question and skips the part in the body of it where you are talking about news media. So:

How can I begin exposing my children to world news?

I have good experience with just letting these kinds of things flow into your daily conversation with the child, occasionally. The world of children is smaller than yours, so I don't think they will suffer if you skip the daily news for them just yet.

For example, get a globe and teach them where you are living right now. Show them the continents etc.. If you have positive news, check out the location, and spin some stories about life in a desert, in another country, in the jungle, in the ice or whatever contrasts with your own country, just to paint them a picture about humans.

For "heavy" topics, for example, when pictures of starving people are noticed (maybe on a news stand or whatever), you can talk about wars, famine, 3rd world problems etc., on a child-like level. "We always have enough to eat, but there are people who have to do not; even children! And in hot countries they do not even have water; and some don't have a house, even in our country." etc. etc. (pick one of those, not all at once); I would try to make it rather personal: If you ask them "Can you imagine how it would feel to not eat something for 3 days...?", then they get to think about it. They don't need to know yet how many million people starve each day.

For war, the same. I believe it's OK to let them know that the world is not a box of chocolate. Obviously, you can skip the graphic descriptions of what happens with humans in war, but you can, gently, implement the idea that children get to grow up without parents or stuff like that (which is likely as grueling to children as the idea of getting bodily mutilated - or even more). You don't want to traumatize your children, just make them aware.

All of this is meant, per your question, to begin exposing the children, not to make politicians out of them, so there is no real curriculum here. The point also is to give you stuff to talk about which is a bit removed

Media

I have a bleak view on todays news media. I encounter few which do not have an obvious agenda (even if it is only to make money by any means possible). I believe that the best you can do for your children is to instill a healthy amount of scepticism about people telling them "how stuff is" (and yes, this goes for popular science channels as well).

Frankly, at 8yo, your child likely has not yet learned about the grey scale between "true" and "false", or has just got a small inkling. I'd suggest that what you are doing right now is fine. I would certainly not let them regularly consume news on their own, for a few years. Together with you, as part of some evening ritual? Sure, why not! I watched evening news with my parents back in the time, and the most I remember is it being incredibly boring, anyways...

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I grew up in an age without such worries about curating much of the information.

Nevertheless, I got used to see the telext news and keeping up with the news in a couple of minutes per day, and to this day I find mind numbing having to watch a news broadcast. The educational value is very low, and the amount of publicity to hollywood/local people "celebs", and marketing is borish. The amount of indoctrination is something to worry about too.

I would introduce them first to twitter and/or short newsflahes about the weeky news if possible. Hint: the BBC player can be used outside the UK

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I was brought up on newsprint (i.e. my father would read the paper), and prefer text even now.

For a start I read faster than people talk. For example I can read a transcript of an hour-long documentary in less than an hour. So that's more efficient, or the information that can be conveyed in a given time is more in-depth.

Second and more important, I find that TV is emotionally-laden: there's dramatic music introducing the TV news; and the announcers read their scripts in a concerned, serious, or anxiety-conveying voice ... which I find distracting, unpleasant, disorienting, and addictive (and so, unsuitable).

So to answer your question, "How can I begin exposing my children to world news?", you could tell them (perhaps the 8-year-old at least) to read the front page of the newspaper (or the "world news" page of the newspaper) every day ... maybe quiz them on it too, if you do that.

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