Every parent in America is on edge this week. As we drove our sons and daughters to school, or put them on a bus, many of us choked back the tears as we continue to collectively grieve for the tragic incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and pray our children come home to us safely at the end of the day. Instinctively, parents of young children choose carefully in how much to say as we battle our own despair.
Many parents made a conscious decision to limit what tell our children about this heinous crime against humanity. We bravely hid our tears, and watched the story discreetly on our computers to protect our innocent children from hearing something they could not possibly understand. Knowing that even Disney characters can trigger nightmares, this is beyond comprehension.
I was one of those parents who chose not to tell my elementary age twins much at all about the story. We just moved from Connecticut, and I felt it was not appropriate, and did not want them to be frightened about going to school. Instead, we kept the TV off, and enjoyed family time making Christmas cookies. I wept with my dearest friends outside in the garage, and chose to tune in to updates intermittently.
I sent my kids to school Monday morning, assuming they would enjoy a typical day -- and was stunned when they climbed into the car at 3:30 pm filled with questions about a CNN Student News story they watched in the classroom. CNN Student News is a ten minute daily video broadcast directly into classrooms about current events, and millions of children watch daily from coast to coast.
My daughter wanted to know why I didn't tell them about the first grade teacher that took her students into a bathroom to hide from the shooter, or about another first grade teacher who put her kids against the wall to shield them, and got shot. My soft-spoken son simply said, "They showed the names and all the ages of the kids who died, Mom."
The ten minute piece is filled with crash edits of grieving families, candlelight vigils, marching swat teams and desperately grieving parents lamenting, "I can`t look at my children`s faces now without seeing the faces of every one of their schoolmates."
The story included a black screen roll of the names of children and the number 6 after them, with emotionally gut wrenching music and faces of agonized families. Imagine being near to that age, coming to school, and having to make sense of that. The anchor read in a relative monotone, "Another first-grade teacher moved her students into a corner away from the door. When the gunman came into the room, the teacher stood in front of the students, protecting them while sacrificing her life." Imagine watching this piece from the perspective of an elementary school child who DOES NOT KNOW about the story.
CNN has been entrusted by classrooms across the country to provide relevant news to our nation's children. This was not a story for children to see their first day back. I could not believe such an audacious breach of common sense occurred. We do not need to traumatize our children in the likes of Geraldo Rivera-style hype journalism. It is outrageously inappropriate for kids to have to be blasted with ten minutes of tragic images without a parent to assist them, and to be given this information wondering if their classroom was going to be next or if their teacher would have to take a bullet any minute.
It is one thing that CNN airs an almost constant stream of coverage about this story on network cable. Adults can elect to watch at their discretion, and force themselves to turn it off so as not to be emotionally traumatized. It has been everywhere, with no escape to process.
I remember before the days of 24/7 hysteria news of death and despair, a tragedy such as this would not be fully covered or explained until a competent magazine was able to compile the details and assemble a photo collage. It gave everyone time to have a bit of separation from the immediacy of the trauma. We need time to properly take it in, reflect and make sense of it all.
Now, the pain of the survivors is in our face, all day long. The poor families have to have their own private police officer to protect them as tiny Newtown, Conn. is under media siege from around the world. The quiet town typically lit up by a few decorative Christmas lights is filled with boom mics, tents and spotlights of reporters combing for a new angle before the next live feed. I am disgusted.
While we cannot protect our children forever, and a story of this magnitude is bound to get around to our children's ears, we all must exercise discretion. Our principal was appalled at the piece once she screened it, and reported she will no longer air the CNN Student News in her school until this incident blows over.
It is my hope that all schools will pre-screen any upcoming CNN kid stories and refuse to run anything that is insensitive to the emotions of children having to watch this in school.