Should children read the news?

February 15, 2020

The simple answer is, yes. However, there is a ‘but’. Kids should definitely be aware of current world events but one of the greatest challenges kids face today (…besides global warming) is actually #fakenews. In today’s digital world there is so much content out there and the ease of access makes today’s information age like a constantly overflowing reservoir.

It’s not uncommon that teachers and parents everywhere know there is a need for students to be aware of, critically think about and develop an understanding of how the world works and what the current state of local and global affairs are. If you take a gander at your local schools’ mission or vision statement, more often than not, you’ll see a part that relates to positively contributing to society or becoming active citizens. Moreover, teachers and parents also understand the need for kids to be able to question the legitimacy of information in news, blogs, and websites.

If we want our kids to be engaged and positively contributing to our society, they need to be aware of where it is now and how it’s changing. They actually have their own version of a longitudinal study because the more in touch with their communities they are, the more data they have on where it was, where it is and how they can make a difference in the future. Providing kids with responsible news agencies open the lines of communication between you and your child but also opens their lines of thinking beyond themselves and towards their greater communities.

There are strategies that you can use to ensure kids are keeping up to date on world news, but are also safe, responsible and help them to determine what’s real and what’s fake. Here are some great resources for parents and teachers to use to ensure a safe, responsible and unbiased approach to watching the news.

1. Behind the News (BTN) -

Behind the News is a fantastic resource for kids to learn about current events in kid- friendly language, which is highly engaging, and largely unbiased. They simply present the facts to kids and unpack many global situations that can be confusing in typical news outlets. To be honest, it even helps adults unpack political situations! What is particularly special about BTN is that it has so much more than just the news, you can engage with hosts on Twitter, Ask A Reporter (AAR) segments and even Rookie Reporters where kids write their own news reports. Having a browse will surely unlock tons of resources for your classroom or home to safely and responsibly watch the news with your child.

2. Newsela

Newsela is an amazing resource for teachers to ensure that kids are reading news articles that are unbiased, factual and at their reading levels. Newsela has some great upsides, including pushing articles out to students in your created class, annotating and commenting on articles and something particularly amazing is the ability for kids to choose their reading level to ensure the text is just right for them.

You can actually see how the text changes when you switch reading levels! The downsides to Newsela are that the pro version is significantly better but significantly more expensive and it is predominately American – however, that hasn’t stopped heaps of teachers from utilising this amazing resource in their classrooms. There’s an article for just about anything, with options to complete quizzes and complete activities.

3. Kids News

Kids News is another fantastic resource that is very easy to use, featuring heaps of child-friendly articles, with safe and responsible strategies such as, ensuring there are no links outwards to other news sites, differentiated reading levels of green, orange and red, and featuring news articles in just about every category you can think of! In addition, Kids News has built in classroom activities and everyday activities that link directly to the Australian curriculum.

If these resources are out of your reach or you’re looking for other ways to support your child, watching the news isn’t a bad thing, so long as you are there to guide questions and thought processes. You have the opportunity to prompt and guide children by asking questions like:

  • Is there more to this story?
  • Is there another point of view?
  • Who is the author or reporter? Has he/she reported on the same topic before?
  • Is the writer/author/reporter an expert on this topic? How can we find out?
  • Is the website/news outlet a trusted source? What strategies can we use to find out?
  • Is the website credible? Does the domain name give us a hint? (the best sites end in ‘.org’, ‘.edu’, and ‘.gov’)
We hope these strategies and resources help your child become engaged and active citizens in our communities.