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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
What did we tell the children?
World Trade Center
The destruction was watched by children across the world
It made them scared, it made them physically sick, it made them cry, it made them pray and it made them talk.

This wasn't just the reaction of adults directly affected by the attack on New York - these were the responses of children around the world, as reported by e-mails sent to BBC News Online.

This globe-spanning act of violence has filled the news channels, online news services and newspapers throughout the week - and watching and reading alongside the adults have been children.


My 10-year-old son has been extremely traumatised by the imagery and rhetoric ... which was so bad he was physically sick

Martin Veysey, Bristol, UK

In response to an article by BBC News Online's Peter Gould, readers around the world have sent their own impressions of what their children were told of the destruction and how they responded.

Illustrating how the impact has been felt far from the scene of the disaster, an e-mail from Martin Veysey from Bristol in the United Kingdom reports how much the news has upset his son.

And this has not been because of the television images - because Mr Veysey says he does not have a television.


My eight-year-old daughter was crying in the night because some child at school had told her that all the daddies would have to go to war

Kathleen McCafferty, Louisiana, USA

"My 10-year-old son has been extremely traumatised by the imagery and rhetoric upon which perceptions of the attack on the States are founded.

"We do not have a TV and so rely solely on radio and newspapers. My wife and I are certain that continued repetition of events, reinforced by dramatic sound montages plus Mr Bush's and Mr Blair's fighting talk, has contributed to our son's trauma, which was so bad he was physically sick."

Another parent - a UK expatriate living in Louisiana in the United States - reported that her children's behaviour had been adversely affected by the news.

"My eight-year-old daughter was crying in the night because some child at school had told her that all the daddies would have to go to war," writes Kathleen McCafferty.


My daughter's fifth grade class handed out newspapers to each student. After which, every student had a chance to voice their opinion on the horrible tragedy

Suzanne Hill, USA

"Every morning she asked 'mum did they find anyone else?'. This weekend we found three envelopes addressed to my husband and I, in each is a letter telling us how much she loves us and her family and each one ends with a plea to 'pray for those who died in those tall buildings'.

"I know she is scared and asking us to reassure her that we are safe ... On Thursday I walked into my daughter's room, she had her friends round, normally I invade a noisy scene of music, dancing and scattered toys.

"However the room was still and the three girls sat close together talking about the terrible event. My daughter's friend said 'I know why they did it on Tuesday, it was the 9/11 (September 11) and those numbers are 911 for emergency, they really wanted everyone to be saved.'


What utter tripe. Sounds like the [children are] parroting what they hear adults say. Young children shouldn't be watching so much TV, period

Kathleen McLaughlin, Canada

"Their innocent young minds are eagerly searching to make any sense of this, to grab hold of anything that will dispel the fear that there is evil in this world."

A much younger child, living in the UK, also has been influenced by the extensive coverage, says Annette Sparkes.

"I have a 22-month-old granddaughter. Since the terrorist attack last week, every time she sees an aeroplane, or hears the word 'crash' she utters this sentence: 'bareplane, moke, powch'. This means aeroplane, smoke, crash."

There were also reports of how schools attempted to respond to the violent images.

"My daughter is in first grade and watched the TV with us last Tuesday, just as she was having her breakfast before going to school," writes Dean Packham from the United States.

"Her school instantly responded to the day's events by sending a letter home from the school principal, assuring us that school counsellors were available, providing us with suggestions for talking to the kids about the days' events, and suggested readings for helping our children and us deal with the events over the long term."


I have a 22-month-old granddaughter. Since the terrorist attack last week, every time she sees an aeroplane, or hears the word 'crash' she utters this sentence: 'bareplane, moke, powch'. This means aeroplane, smoke, crash.

Annette Sparkes, UK

Another parent reported how the news spilled over into the classroom.

"My daughter's fifth grade class handed out newspapers to each student. After which, every student had a chance to voice their opinion on the horrible tragedy. I think open discussion is very important and helpful," said Suzanne Hill from the United States.

And in the UK, the father of a three-year-old girl approved of her school's discussion of what the children had seen on television through the week.


Children should not be shielded from such events

Jon Rennie, UK

"I believe that parents and teachers should share the responsibility of discussing major news events with children, and that children should not be shielded from such events," writes Jon Rennie.

At her son's school in Switzerland, Alison Wilmot reported that there were assemblies and classroom discussions about the attack.

"They were told to be considerate of each other, especially for those that were suffering more. Obviously being an international school it was very important as some families may have been directly affected.

"They were also reminded that as little was known about why/who, and in spite of what they might be hearing from any source they should avoid jumping to conclusions or placing blame."

'Great agony'

In Seattle, Angela Murphy reports that her children took part in making a "peace quilt" in honour of those who died.

And in the UK, Eleanor Roberts said that her six year old daughter's class was making a prayer book which would be sent to the United States embassy in London.

There were also sharply divided opinions over how the events should be interpreted.

An e-mail from Pakistani-administered Kashmir expressed the "great agony upon the unjust and barbaric attack on our great friend America" and described Osama Bin Laden as "Satan on the earth".

But another e-mail sent anonymously from the United Kingdom called for equal attention to be paid to the sufferings of Palestinian children.

"Aren't their lives important? Ask their parents and school children how they explain not only terror and violence but also an illegal occupation? Not to mention the millions of innocent children dying in Iraq due to sanctions imposed by the US."

'Media mind-bending'

Another parent in the UK, Edward Dix, suggested that his five-year-old son perceived events in terms of fiction rather than fact.

And another reader, Elizabeth McLaughlin in Canada, was dismissive of suggestions that children were somehow sharing trauma of the moment.

"What utter tripe. Sounds like [the children are] parroting what they hear adults say. Young children shouldn't be watching so much TV, period.

"The greatest relevance in a young child's life is what is happening in his own family, he doesn't need any mind-bending from media types intent on getting their story. That is reality."


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War view

TALKING POINT

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See also:

17 Sep 01 | Features
Through the eyes of children
13 Sep 01 | Education
City schools re-open with counselling
12 Sep 01 | Education
Children 'need to talk' about attacks
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