As a mum, I’ve noticed an increase in my children asking me curious questions about public affairs, some of which appear to come out of nowhere.
One recent example was a barrage of questions about what happened to Princess Diana. It turns out this was fuelled by a spat of trending posts online; every day, there seems to be a new fascination. Not all of this is bad. There is a lot of genuine debate and curiosity, and it’s good to see younger people finding their own way and not just believing what they are told.
On the other hand, our children are open to any thought or opinion, no matter how spurious, defamatory or dangerous. So how do we help our children navigate this?
The first step is always to support open communication. Don’t shut down a question or idea just because you don’t agree with it. Ask where it came from, what they think it means and how your child feels about it.
Secondly, encourage them to question. Whatever your politics might be at home, encourage your child to consider the source and to understand that there will always be a number of perspectives on any situation. Some news channels now have fact-checkers that are good to share with your child, so they can understand the process of seeing whether what someone said was actually true or not.
Thirdly, support your child to question authority – albeit respectfully. People can hold authority or power over others in lots of different ways. For example, political leaders, celebrities or social influencers all have a version of authority. Encourage your child to think for themselves and to talk to you if they have questions or concerns.
Finally, help your child to develop empathy and compassion. Social channels want us to get angry and react, to take a side, to click and share. If we learn how to stand in others’ shoes, even if it’s not our experience, then we may be slower to react, kinder and wiser in our actions.