Nurturing Hope

G Magazine

There's a find line between teaching your kids to be environmentally aware or afraid of the future

Family going hiking

Credit: iStockphoto

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Do you remember it as a kid - ABC TV's Behind the News (BtN)? The program has been producing children's news stories for more than 30 years and reaches about 500,000 children weekly.

In late 2006, BtN asked 2,000 Australian children: "What do you worry about?" Equal first on a list of 12 concerns was "the environment".

The other top worry was their parents and friends dying or getting sick. These two concerns surmounted others such as appearance, school, job prospects and pets.

"Something bad might happen in the future if people don't stop polluting and making it hotter," said, Liam, 10, from Sydney.

Elijah, 8, from Wollongong was more concerned about the animals: "We might all burn up one day. And the penguins and polar bears won't have anywhere to live."

But is it really a surprise that kids are so worried about the environment when they see so many news stories on the subject?

"We have definitely done more climate change and environmental stories over the past few years because it's become a regular news issue," says BtN executive producer, Robert Clark.

While BtN tailors its coverage to children, other sources don't have the same filters. According to Susie Burke, a senior research officer for the Australian Psychological Society (APS), standard television news reports of catastrophic events can have a lasting impact on kids.

"Visual images from television stay with children much longer than radio or print media," says Burke.

That's why it's a good idea, she says, to switch off the news if young children are present or talk them through the things they see.

Psychologist Joseph Reser of Griffith University in Brisbane believes that an overload of frightening images and information can undermine children's naturally confident and optimistic attitude.

"Kids need to be concerned about matters like climate change," says Reser. But like adults, if they "become too anxious about anything [they] lose the power to act".

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