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Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
Children taught 'reality' of disaster
New York attack survivors
Children are reminded that US victims are "real people"
The first reaction of many people watching the television images of the attack on New York was that it didn't seem "real".

This urban nightmare, filling screens around the world, was more like a disaster movie than a news bulletin.


Children are used to the re-set button on a video game. They can see a car crash and then it starts again. In games people get another life

David Cartwright, head teacher

If this is how adults have reacted, then how much more confusing is this for children?

A head teacher in Hull has been particularly concerned that pupils might be unable to distinguish the real loss of life in the United States from the fiction of video games and movies.

David Cartwright, head at Francis Askew Primary School, says that staff have been working hard to ensure that children understand that what they have seen is not just make-believe.

"Children are used to the re-set button on a video game. They can see a car crash and then it starts again. In games people get another life."

'De-sensitise'

Mr Cartwright says there is a danger that this can "de-sensitise" children when they see a real-life event on television, such as the images of the attack on the World Trade Center.

"Television is an entertainment medium for children", he says, and when news appears on the same screen children do not necessarily understand the difference.

Since many pupils have televisions in their own bedrooms, he also speculates that many children could have watched the broadcasts from New York unaccompanied and with no one to explain what was happening.

In an attempt to help older pupils understand the pictures they had seen, staff brought in newspapers and any information about the attack and tried to talk through the events.

By answering and asking questions and exploring what had happened, Mr Cartwright says the school encouraged a more "mature" response from pupils.

Voyeurism

And he says that pupils showed a more responsible and caring attitude - "remembering that these are real people" - without the sense of "excitement" or "voyeurism" that he had feared.

Mr Cartwright also says that the school was careful in how they talked about the suspected perpetrators, avoiding anything that might seem to be blaming any religion or ethnic groups.

There have been attacks on asylum seekers in Hull and the school has pupils from asylum seeker families, but the head teacher says that there has been no raising of tension since the attacks in New York.


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See also:

17 Sep 01 | Features
Through the eyes of children
18 Sep 01 | Education
What did we tell the children?
13 Sep 01 | Education
City schools re-open with counselling
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