As you all know I’m a great believer in being honest and upfront with our kids and young people in all things. I firmly believe that this is the basis on which we build trust relationships, so that when life gets difficult our young people have confidence in talking to us about what‟s bothering them, knowing that we’ll show our respect for them by giving them an honest answer to their questions.

2011 has started with difficulty for many communities across our world. War, political
unrest, natural and man made disasters have been the constant rather than the
exception. This is reality and should be addressed as such, however we need to ask,
what is the “tipping point” where media coverage moves from factual reporting of these
events to blatant sensationalism in order to gain an increased viewer market share? And
at what point do we as consumers move from a healthy and empathetic interest in world
affairs to a voyeuristic obsession with the suffering of others? And what message is this
sending to our young people?

I started to ponder this question when my teenage nephew asked me if I thought the
end of the world was imminent. As we have a wonderful, trust relationship, built on
honesty and warm regard for each other, I answered him with a question. “What makes
you think that? I must say I was a little taken a back when he proceeded to talk about
apocalyptic predictions based on biblical quotations on the one hand and then the
implications of the Mayan calendar ending on December 21st 2012, on the other. My first
thought was how impressed I was that a fourteen year old should be so well versed in
ancient philosophy, but on pursuing the conversation I began to understand that these
concepts were well known in his peer group. As we talked further I felt sad that these
young people were viewing the recent spate of natural disasters as indicative that we are
in the “end days” and that the human race has no ability to avoid the looming
apocalypse. He proceeded to talk in detail about the earthquakes in Christchurch, Japan,
and Thailand. He told me about the slaughter of protesters across the Middle East (in
detail) and then about the threat of nuclear contamination of our environment due to the
Fukushima accident. If that‟s not enough to worry a young person, there‟s also global
warming and the ongoing impact of the GFC and the subsequent economic problems in

When I pursued the conversation, it became very obvious that he had gained the
majority of this information (some of it factional, most of it sensationalised) from news
coverage by the major commercial networks. Those same networks that flew morning
show television hosts into disaster areas to thrust microphones in the face of grieving
people to ask them “how they feel” and then played these “grabs” over and over again
throughout the day. Our kids are being bombarded with these messages and immersed
in the constant suffering and devastation of our environment and our neighbours. No
wonder they are scared and confused!© Molly Carlile 4/4/11
No part of this article may be reproduced without the written permission of the author.
I guess it‟s a bit unfair of me to place all of the blame for this growing anxiety in our
young people at the foot of the commercial media outlets, „cause let‟s face it, if there
wasn‟t a market for this blatant “overkill” they wouldn‟t do it. So as consumers we must
take some of the responsibility. We need to take a stand and vote with our remote
controls. We also need to start having conversations with our young people and provide
a point of balance in all of this.

The global disasters have impacted on all of us. As Australians we have a strong bond
with our Kiwi neighbours, their suffering impacts on us. Most of us would have
neighbours and friends who are New Zealanders and many of us would have been to
Christchurch. Many of us have strong bonds with Japan. For me, having a sister-in-law
who is Japanese and whose family live in Fukushima, has meant the earthquake has
shaken people very close to me. I visited Fukushima prefecture in the late „90‟s and
spent a wonderful couple of weeks touring around this ancient countryside where 400
year old houses, dotted among the farmland transported me back in time. I sat and
listened to the old men talking in the local store and I still have hanging over my
mantelpiece a beautiful framed Buddhist prayer parchment in gold leaf calligraphy that
the owner of the store gifted to me when I left, such was the generosity and warmth of
the people there. All of that is now gone and the land that‟s left, contaminated by
radiation, so not only have people lost their homes, their families and friends, but also
any potential agricultural livelihood for decades if not centuries into the future. Closer to
home we‟ve witness the devastation of whole regions due to storms and floods, following
on from years of drought, the impact of which has been wide spread and will continue to
be for a long time. It‟s hard to find a positive in any of this.

The lesson here for me is that YES, we need to keep our young people informed, we
must answer their questions openly and honestly, but we have a responsibility to protect
them from sensationalist, voyeuristic reporting that values ratings over other people‟s
suffering. We need to provide a point of balance by promoting the goodness in others,
by talking more about what we can do to help and support people who are suffering. We
need to encourage our young people to be hopeful about the future, to see that they
must be the change they want to see and by modelling this behaviour ourselves. So the
question for us is, “What are WE doing to help our world and the people in it?” If we all
contribute according to our abilities, this sends a very strong message to our young
people. They will see how love, understanding and empathy can make a difference. They
will see how by making a personal sacrifice we can effect change. How by simple things
like making a financial donation to disaster relief, sponsoring a child, buying products
that support struggling communities, investing in environmentally friendly technology or
by being prepared to stand up for what you believe in, each of us can make a difference.
We need to reinvest in hope. Hope for a better future for all of us and by focusing on
making things better, we disempower the apathy that comes from constant exposure to
fear and negativity. This should be the gift we give our young people. Natural disasters
have been with us since the dawn of time, its how we make sense of them and what we
choose to do to support people suffering the effect of these traumatic events that strengthen our communities and that provides our young people with a sense of purpose.

I don‟t know about you, but I‟d like to think that our kids and young people can feel that
they DO have a future. That it IS worth investing in their community. That they CAN
make a difference and that life is wonderful. This can only happen if we regain a
balanced view of the world. Terrible things can happen at any time, but wonderful things
happen too and we need to start talking about the good things in equal doses to the bad.
We need to give them back their hope in the future and this will only happen when we
start to notice the impact of the information our kids are exposed to and be proactive
about providing them with a balanced view.