How do children grow up with news?
From a very young age, children come into contact with news. Therefore, they can ask questions about this at any age, whether they are ready or not. Depending on their age, children deal with information and news differently.
PRESCHOOLERS (4-6 years)
Preschoolers are like little islands, their focus is mainly on themselves and their parents. They live in their own fantasy world and cannot yet think in an abstract way.
Here and there, preschoolers hear about the news from their brother, sister or (grand)parents. But it often remains frightening, confusing or overwhelming, because they cannot yet grasp or understand news. However, you can already explore some different types of media (What is a book, newspaper, the internet, …?) with preschoolers. From the age of 5 they can learn, step by step and with help, to look up information in a source at their level.
TIP Young children can already ask questions about the news while they are not yet ready to understand it. Is your child asking questions about what is happening in the world? Then try to answer at the child’s level. Don’t dismiss their insecurities and engage in the conversation. Because the news is so confusing, it is important to answer their questions. Though in an age-appropriate way.
PRIMARY SCHOOL (6-12 years)
During primary school, children become increasingly detached from their parents and interact more often with siblings and friends. They become more curious and immerse themselves in subjects they find interesting. But they still think very black and white. The part of the brain responsible for critical thinking and evaluation is not yet developed enough. As a result, children cannot think in an abstract way.
FIRST GRADE (6-8 years)
In the first grade of primary school, children still live in their fantasy world and are fairly impulsive. News remains too abstract and overwhelming. Sometimes they hear things about the news, but they are not yet aware of its impact. However, you can already structure their world more by talking about it. Parents are their main source of information, but the teacher is becoming increasingly important in this regard. Children are trying to figure out the purposes of different forms of information for the first time. For instance, they learn that advertisements try to convince you and the news is meant to inform you.
SECOND GRADE (8-10 years)
Children between 8 and 10 years old hang out with pears more and more often. The teacher becomes an increasingly important source of information. Moreover, they can already start learning a lot of skills: with a little help, children can find the answer to a simple question in a source and try to assess the reliability of a source for the first time (using simple questions such as who, what, where, when and how).
TIP Most youth newsreels are made for children aged 9 and older. However, it can be useful for younger children to already follow it occasionally. As a parent or adult, watch it with them so that you can provide additional tailor-made explanations and answer their questions.
THIRD GRADE (10-12 years)
Young teenagers are real trend watchers and surf from fad to fad. They still immerse themselves in things that interest them. At this age, they look up to the teacher, but friends become more important. However, they still think very black and white.
News seeps into their daily lives and they understand that there is a lot of news around them, but for things like recognising fake news, it is still too early. However, you can already introduce them to concepts like “fact”, “truth” and “lie”. They also increasingly try to check the reliability of a source and can look up information in different sources.
SECONDARY SCHOOL (12-18 years)
Youngsters in secondary school are gradually able to think about society in a more abstract way. They ask questions about the news and look for additional information. Moreover, a search for their own identity starts in secondary school. Teenagers develop their own opinions, norms and values.
TIP Youngsters at this age still have a great sense of justice and think in fairly black and white terms. Yet they are almost ready to follow the real news. If the public broadcaster has an Instagram, TikTok or Facebook account tailored for young people, this can be a good stepping stone. The news may still raise a lot of questions for them. Therefore, it is important to discuss current affairs, both at school and at home.
FIRST GRADE (12-14 years)
Children become teenagers and teenagers become adolescents. The more they get off their little island, the more they come into contact with society and everything that happens in it. Youngsters question society and start to develop their own opinions, values and norms.
This is the time to introduce them to the real news: what is news, how is it made, how do journalists work, what sources do they use, … Youngsters can also independently look up information in different sources and know the steps to assess the reliability of a source.
SECOND GRADE (14-16 years)
In the second grade of secondary school, youngsters actively search for their own identity. In doing so, they compare themselves with peers and idealised images on (social) media, looking for social acceptance. Gradually, they begin to question the choices made by parents and teachers. Moreover, youngsters at this age are susceptible to extreme ideas. In the search for themselves, they want to stand out from the crowd and experiment with taking on different roles. Thus, it is important to regularly engage in a meaningful conversation about their life, struggles and insecurities!
Youngsters realise that not all the information they come across is reliable. So it is important for them to know, check and compare different sources of information. They also learn about the impact of social media and the flow of (dis)information coming at them (and everyone else).
THIRD GRADE (16-18 years)
Youngsters really scrutinise everything and examine how and why things happen. They notice that their environment influences them and vice versa. The older they get, the more they explore the world. Gradually, they form their own opinions on social, ethical and political issues.
These almost-adults are becoming true critical thinkers. They can already judge news, information and situations quite well. They compare sources, process information critically and know its impact on society. Moreover, they learn to deal constructively with differences of opinion and make their voices heard in society.
Check out all the mediawise tools on the EDMO Belux website.
Read more about how to talk to children about fake news.