Try not to consume the horrific war news out of Israel with your family dinner.
The Hamas terror attack on Israel last week demanded our full attention. Many of us sat pinned to the TV, as we did after 9/11. The parenting challenge of the moment, as if we needed another mountain to climb, is to limit our children’s access to TV and social media accounts of the war in the Middle East. As the adults in the room, we must take charge of what we want our young children, and even our teenagers, to see and hear.
For our own health and well-being, we need to limit our consumption of violent news reports and videos. There is a difference between educating ourselves and subsuming our daily lives to details of the horror unfolding nearly 6,000 miles away. The media are unlikely to exert restraint. So we must.
Unfortunately, our kids have access to streaming video games in which the violence is vivid and shocking. The membrane between the gaming world and the real-world videos coming out of Israel is thin and permeable. It can be overwhelming to developing minds.
We need to talk to our children and grandchildren, and give them a sense of history and an education about the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. We need to protect them from the sensational posts on the internet and help them understand how militant tribes and clans and communities can divide a country, overtaking our best instincts. Even here in America.
Teenagers today, the survivors of a life-changing global pandemic, a generation of kids struggling with unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression, need our protection and censorship when it comes to what they see and hear. This has always been true, but we need to step up our supervision of online viewing, because we cannot trust news outlets to monitor themselves. The gathering war in the Middle East brings a new level of exposure to our kids, who know how to find videos and postings, some true, some fake, on their phones and other devices.
While we limit their exposure to inappropriate news, as citizens we must keep ourselves informed and involved. The war will surely pull the U.S. into the conflict on many levels. I try to find responsible newspapers, reporters and opinion pages to keep me updated. How else to get a full account of a painful, complex and ongoing human tragedy?
As a journalist, I feel proud of the foreign correspondents who raced into the war zone and began reporting what they saw and heard. Richard Engel, Clarissa Ward, Ali Velshi, Norah O’Donnell, Lester Holt, Trey Yingst and dozens of others rushed into the battle on the ground. Putting themselves in harm’s way every day, they allowed us back home to see real people, in real time, reacting to the Oct. 7 invasion. I especially appreciate the reportage that includes sources and eyewitness accounts to validate the information they broadcast. They are well informed and calm, even under fire. Inevitably, there will be casualties among the journalists as the war escalates.
They bring us the stories, but the stories are not always appropriate for kids. We need to know the details, but our children don’t. Our homes must be safe, peaceful havens for them.
I have had conversations with my grandchildren, one of whom was in Israel in May, about the geography of Israel being its destiny, and the ancient tribal feuds that still fuel the hatred and violence that is evident today. TikTok and Facebook don’t do justice to this unfolding story; it requires a level of gravitas fully grounded in the long history of the region.
Last night, eyewitness after eyewitness went on the air on CNN to tell the first-hand accounts of their wives or mothers or brothers being pulled from their homes. Young people spoke of friends being shot down in front of them at the desert music festival. MSNBC broadcast photographs including one of a baby shot dead in its bed on a kibbutz.
These emerging details of murdered and kidnapped Israeli children tilt the moral universe. As the war accelerates, it will tilt further.
My obligation as an American citizen is to stay informed. My choice as a Jew is to support Israel’s right to exist and thrive. My obligation is also to protect my grandchildren from the photos and videos of Hamas terrorist attacks on young kids just like them.
They do not need to witness the shock and awe of war to know that raging violence is shocking and awful.
Copyright 2023 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.