Explaining the News to Our Kids

From Common Sense Media:

Explaining the News to Our Kids

Kids get their news from many sources — and they’re not always correct. How to talk about the news — and listen, too.
by Common Sense Media | Jul. 20, 2012

Talking to Your Kids About the News

Help put the news in perspective

Shootings, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, end-of-the-world predictions — even local news reports of missing kids and area shootings — all of this can be upsetting news even for adults, much less kids. In our 24/7 news world, it’s become nearly impossible to shield kids from distressing current events.

Today, kids get news from everywhere. This constant stream of information shows up in sharable videos, posts, blogs, feeds, and alerts. And since much of this content comes from sites that are designed for adult audiences, what your kids see, hear, or read might not always be age appropriate. Making things even more challenging is the fact that many kids are getting this information directly on their phones and laptops. Often parents aren’t around to immediately help their children make sense of horrendous situations.

The bottom line is that young kids simply don’t have the ability to understand news events in context, much less know whether or not a source of information is credible. And while older teens are better able to understand current events, even they face challenges when it comes to sifting fact from opinion — or misinformation.

No matter how old your kid is, threatening or upsetting news can affect them emotionally. Many can feel worried, frightened, angry — even guilty. And these anxious feelings can last long after the news event is over. So what can you do as a parent to help your kids deal with all of this information?

Tips for all kids

Reassure your children that they’re safe. Tell your kids that even though a story is getting a lot of attention, it was just one event and was most likely a very rare occurrence. And remember that your kids will look to the way you handle your reactions to determine their own approach. If you stay calm and considered, they will, too.

Tips for kids under 7

Keep the news away. Turn off the TV and radio news at the top of the hour and half hour. Read the newspaper out of range of young eyes that can be frightened by the pictures. Preschool children don’t need to see or hear about something that will only scare them silly, especially because they can easily confuse facts with fantasies or fears.

At this age, kids are most concerned with your safety and separation from you. They’ll also respond strongly to pictures of other young children in jeopardy. Try not to minimize or discount their concerns and fears, but reassure them by explaining all the protective measures that exist to keep them safe. If you’re flying somewhere with them, explain that extra security is a good thing.

Tips for kids 8-12

Carefully consider your child’s maturity and temperament. Many kids can handle a discussion of threatening events, but if your children tend toward the sensitive side, be sure to keep them away from the TV news; repetitive images and stories can make dangers appear greater, more prevalent, and closer to home.

At this age, many kids will see the morality of events in stark black-and-white terms and are in the process of developing their moral beliefs. You may have to explain the basics of prejudice, bias, and civil and religious strife. But be careful about making generalizations, since kids will take what you say to the bank. This is a good time to ask them what they know, since they’ll probably have gotten their information from friends, and you may have to correct facts.

You might explain that even news programs compete for viewers, which sometimes affects content decisions. If you let your kids use the Internet, go online with them. Some of the pictures posted are simply grisly. Monitor where your kids are going, and set your URLs to open to non-news-based portals.

Tips for teens

Check in. Since, in many instances, teens will have absorbed the news independently of you, talking with them can offer great insights into their developing politics and their senses of justice and morality. It will also give you the opportunity to throw your own insights into the mix (just don’t dismiss theirs, since that will shut down the conversation immediately).

Many teens will feel passionately about events and may even personalize them if someone they know has been directly affected. They’ll also probably be aware that their own lives could be impacted by terrorist tactics. Try to address their concerns without dismissing or minimizing them. If you disagree with media portrayals, explain why so that your teens can separate the mediums through which they absorb news from the messages conveyed.

Original article

Today’s High School Students More Committed to Academics Than Previous Generation

Report: U.S. Students Get Serious About High School

High school students work harder and are more focused on school than they were a generation ago, suggests a special analysis in “The Condition of Education 2012,” and the economic downturn may highlight an opportunity to put more of them on the path to college.

The National Center for Education Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Education, released its vast annual statistical snapshot today with a special focus on high schools.

In 2010, the most recent year for which data are available, the NCES reported 14.9 million students were enrolled in grades 9-12, a slight decrease from 2008 but still part of a slow rise since 1990; the NCES expects high school enrollment to recover and increase 4 percent in the next decade.

“The population’s different; it’s poorer and more diverse,” said Mel Riddile, the associate director for high school services at the National Association of Secondary School Principals in Reston, Va., but he noted, “I’ve been in education four decades, and I’ve found the students getting better and better every decade.”

NCES statistics do seem to show a generation more committed to academics.

Student Employment Drops and Rising College Ambitions

The latest of the U.S. Department of Education’s annual Condition of Education reports finds declining percentages of high school students, ages 16 and older, are working outside of school.

Additionally, students whose parents have attained higher levels of education are more likely than those with less educated parents to have plans to earn a four-year college degree. But federal statistics show that the percentages of students aspiring to that level of educational attainment has risen in recent decades, regardless of parents’ education background.

Fewer high school seniors in 2009 than in 1992 reported missing three or more days of school in the past month, and the percentage of 12th graders reporting perfect attendance in the month previous to the survey rose from 35 percent in 1992 to 38 percent in 2009.

Little to no change occurred from 1990 to 2010 in the percentage of students participating in extracurricular activities such as student government, clubs and drama, except for increase in sports participation, from 36 percent to 40 percent.

Lower Employment

During the same time period, however, high school students have become half as likely to work while in school. From 1990 to 2010, the percentage of students ages 16 and older who were employed while enrolled in school dropped from 32 percent to 16 percent. While the economic downturn has certainly contributed to that decline, the report shows student employment has been dropping steadily for the past decade.

“It used to be, you’d go to high school at 11 or noon, and there was this mass exodus of students, seniors with a half day,” Mr. Riddile said. “That’s changed dramatically around the country. The culture in the schools today is much more oriented toward academics and success after high school than they ever were before. Students are required to take full courseloads and rigorous classes,” due in part to higher graduation criteria in 22 states.

That push for more rigorous coursework, coupled with an increasingly inhospitable employment environment for teenagers, could create some leverage for educators to put more students on track for higher academic achievement.

“Being in high school is a lot better than hanging out somewhere trying to get a job when you are competing against adults with families,” noted Jeffrey E. Mirel, a professor of education and history at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

That may be helping to keep students in school. The NCES found that from 1990 to 2010, the percentage of students considered dropouts declined from 12 percent to 7 percent, and the percentage of freshmen who graduated in four years with a regular high school diploma increased slightly, from 73.7 percent in the class of 1991 to 75.5 percent in the class of 2009.

Moreover, seniors may be graduating better prepared than they were a generation ago.

More high school graduates in 2009 had completed rigorous high school classes than had done so two decades before. Of a slew of mathematics and science courses considered important for college readiness—including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, statistics, analysis/pre-calculus, calculus, biology, chemistry, and physics—only Algebra 1 saw a decrease in the percentage of students completing the course between 1990 and 2009. The NCES noted that the decrease in Algebra 1 was more likely due to more students taking algebra in earlier grades than in fewer taking the course at all. And all the other STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering, and math—listed saw a significant increase in students from 1990 to 2009, including 24 percent more students completing geometry and at least 20 percent more completing Algebra 2, precalculus, biology, and chemistry.

“If they are taking courses with genuine academic rigor, that is something to be very pleased about,” Mr. Mirel said. It suggests “we are responding to the Great Recession in a better way than educators responded to the Great Depression.”

In the years of the Great Depression, schools likewise saw a sudden increase in the number of students, including the poor and immigrants, remaining in high school, according to Mr. Mirel, a co-author with David Angus of the 1999 book The Failed Promise of the American High School, 1890-1995. The rate of students staying in high school rose from around 50 percent to 74 percent before and after 1940, but in response, states reduced the rigor of the curricula, he found, replacing college-preparatory courses like calculus with “general math.”

This time around, tighter state graduation requirements have coincided with greater access to online courses, particularly in rural districts.

“Certainly, we do see districts and states use distance education to bring in advanced courses that they wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise,” said NCES Commissioner Sean P. “Jack” Buckley.

Distance-learning enrollment, including online classes, has skyrocketed, from 222,000 students in 2002-03 to more than 1.3 million in 2009-10.

Although students might face a more challenging academic landscape in school, the NCES found it is also a less stressful one from a safety standpoint. From 1992 to 2010, the rates of all school-based crimes dropped dramatically. In 2010, 32 nonfatal violent crimes took place on campus, including sexual assault and robbery, for every 1,000 students ages 12 to 18. That’s less than a third the rate in 1992 of 154 crimes per 1,000 students. Similarly, the rate of theft dropped from 101 to 18 for every 1,000 students.

The NCES found 49.5 million students attend public P-12 schools, continuing a steady rise since the 1980s. Moreover, analysts project enrollment will rise by 7 percent, to 53.1 million, by the 2021-22 school year. The West and parts of the Eastern Seaboard are expected to grow even faster, and three states—Alaska, Arizona, and Nevada—are expected to see a more than 20 percent jump in their student populations.

Female Students Poisoned in Afghanistan

Afghan School Attack: Students, Teachers Poisoned In Takhar Province

Reuters | Posted: 05/23/2012

Afghanistan School Attack

This picture taken in Kabul on September 28, 2011 shows Afghan schoolgirls walking past a shop.(ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)

TALIQAN, Afghanistan, May 23 (Reuters) – More than 120 schoolgirls and three teachers have been poisoned in the second attack in as many months blamed on conservative radicals in the country’s north, Afghan police and education officials said on Wednesday.The attack occurred in Takhar province where police said that radicals opposed to education of women and girls had used an unidentified toxic powder to contaminate the air in classrooms. Scores of students were left unconscious.Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), says the Taliban appear intent on closing schools ahead of a 2014 withdrawal by foreign combat troops.”A part of their Al Farooq spring offensive operation is … to close schools. By poisoning girls they want to create fear. They try to make families not send their children to school,” NDS spokesman Lutfullah Mashal said.

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education said last week that 550 schools in 11 provinces where the Taliban have strong support had been closed down by insurgents.

Last month, 150 schoolgirls were poisoned in Takhar province after they drank contaminated water.

Since 2001 when the Taliban were toppled from power by U.S.-backed Afghan forces, females have returned to schools, especially in the capital Kabul. They were previously banned from work and education.

But there are still periodic attacks against students, teachers and school buildings, usually in the more conservative south and east of the country, from where the Taliban insurgency draws most of its support. (Reporting by Mohammad Hamid in Taliqan and Mirwais Harooni in Kabul; Editing by Rob Taylor and Jeremy Laurence)

Original article