How are the Children? Monitoring your child’s TV viewing
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“Kasserian ingera.” This is the traditional greeting passed down between an untold number of generations the legendary Maasai warriors of Kenya and Tanzania (on the east coast of the African continent). The phrase translates to mean, “And how are the children?” 

Article written by Geynille Agee and Aswad Walker

The phrase is still the traditional greeting among the Maasai, acknowledging the high value that the Maasai place on the children’s well-being.

The traditional answer, “All the children are well,” communicates to the person asking that peace and safety prevail for the children, and that life is good because the community’s priorities for protecting the young and powerless were in place.

What does this have to do with the state of our children here in the U.S.? Everything. See, the Maasai believed and still believe that if the children are healthy and happy, so too will be the village, the community, the nation. I believe we can stand to learn a great deal from their perspective.

Today, our children are dealing with multiple crises, from the effects of the two-year-plus COVID-19 pandemic, the threat and reality of global wars, the dramatic and immediate threats to their lives posed by gun violence, the abject poverty many of us are dealing with, as well as the challenges of simply being Black in a majority white America.

In July, this series focused on “Helping Children Cope with Crisis” by providing strategies to help develop a Family Emergency Plan. This go-round, we will look at another aspect of “crisis.”

It is important to note, not all media information is appropriate for all children. As parents, we frequently must interpret and explain. However, because children spend so much time watching TV and parents are not always on hand to interpret and make sense of what children are seeing, it’s easy for them to become overwhelmed and become anxious.

By watching TV with your children you can see what the shows are saying and doing. If you don’t like the show’s message, you can tell your children why those messages are not okay.

With your help, your children will know whether what they are watching is real, exaggerated reality or outright fiction (unreal). They will also know that things in real life don’t always happen the way they do on TV.

During a major crisis (political, social justice, natural disaster, etc.), or right after it happens, most TV news programs will cover the event non-stop. In so doing, media outlets may show the same picture or video clip over and over. Don’t let your children watch these images, especially if they are disturbing or triggering. Researchers have discovered that not only can watching videos of Blacks being killed by police negatively impact the health of adults, often times just discussing these events can trigger negative reactions. And if this happens for adults who have been desensitized to violence way more than children, just imagine the impact such images can have on our youth.

The recommendation: turn off your TV or change the channel to shows more appropriate for children, whether they be cartoons you approve of or educational programs. It is important to realize that constantly recurring images of violence, pain and trauma can be overly disturbing to the child’s sense of security. And a strong sense of security is necessary in successful child development.

To help your child cope with this kind of crisis realize that is important for us to know when feelings are not manageable for our children. During an emergency or crisis show constantly on TV (i.e. the January 6 insurrection), it will help you to know where your child is mentally and emotionally if you ask them frequently, “What have you heard about the event?” “How do you feel about what you have heard?” “What do you need to feel more secure during these times?”

Such questions may seem out of the norm of parent/child conversations, but they can go a long way in making sure your child feels secure and can get through a crisis in a good mental and emotional space.

About Geynille Agee

Geynille Agee’s career working with parents and children expands across several decades and includes working with the Michigan Metro Girl Scouts; serving as an Infant Stimulation, Child Development Specialist at Mental Health Mental Retardation of Houston; Community Involvement Coordinator, Communicable Diseases, Houston Health Department; Executive Consultant, Community Mental Health Associates; and Adult Facilitator Trainer, National Black Church Initiative—Keeping it Real.

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Aswad Walker

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...