Europe

Putin’s Ukraine war should be talked about with youngsters, LSE rights advocate says

Expert believes Ukraine war is a rehearsal for larger NATO conflict

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Professor Sonia Livingstone says that although these conversations may be difficult, many parents wait until it is too late and children often learn about challenging or frightening situations in the wrong way. Dr Livingstone is a Professor at London School of Economics focusing on Children’s Rights in the Digital Age.

Prof Livingstone said that children need to know that parents may sometimes share their worries over something such as the war in Ukraine or even the threat of nuclear war, she urged parents to speak with their children when they were young.

She said: “The earlier the better, basically. I know a lot of parents want to leave things until later. The typical pattern is that the parent sees the child as younger and so begins those important conversations a year or two years too late.

“I would say before children begin navigating the news independently, watch the news together when they are five or seven.

The children may not listen, and may play around while watching but early exposure will get them into the mindset that the situation is serious and that it is something that they can speak with their parents about, according to Prof Livingstone.

She added that speaking to your children about tough issues is better than ignoring the subject altogether. She said children could begin dealing with their fears privately if parents don’t reach out.

Detective-style games can be an effective way to introduce children to the news – parents and children should watch the news together, according to Prof Livingstone.

She said: “Many things can be turned into a topic of investigation, detective style. Let’s figure this out together, let’s see if we can work out more, let’s see if we can work out what the risks really are, because children are afraid of the big challenges in the world but they really also want to know. They don’t like being over protected.”

Dr Livingstone said that although they should introduce their children to these subjects at an early age, most children would “let their parents know” how much information they wanted.

She said: “It’s a bit like all of those conversations about growing up and sexuality, give them some information, some encouragement, see if they take it up – they’ll let you know if they want more.

“You don’t have to give them a whole history of the nuclear crisis in the West.”

Navigating online news and social media can be difficult, even for adults.

According to Ofcom, in 2019 49 percent of adults and older children got their news from social media.

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When asked about misinformation on social media and the internet, Dr Livingstone, again, said that parents should take the opportunity to work with their children to find out what’s out there.

She said particularly with teenagers, it was an opportunity to work with them and to make them feel empowered and confident.

She said: “If a parent and child made sort of a joint project to go and find the three top sources that you could each find, have a chat and compare and then bookmark them.

“Next time you weren’t sure, you could kind of remind yourselves what the checks could be. I think it is kind of a learning project for everybody really.

“That would empower teens, they would think that there is something they could learn and they could inform their parents and that would make them feel a bit more confident. That would have further benefits.”

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