By Felicity Davey
It was an old-style debate about a very current issue: the news.
The topic, “The news is not for kids”, might sound strange to the readers of Crinkling News, but the affirmative and negative teams were talking about mainstream news: the kind you might watch on television at home.
Six of the nation’s finest young speakers at the Crinkling News MediaMe conference in Sydney on November 20, Universal Children’s Day, argued strong and hard.
The debate streamed on Facebook and was watched live by 10,600 people in homes and classrooms across Australia and the world.
War, disaster and crime
Max, 10, from Victoria, began the case for the affirmative by saying the news is disturbing.
“A recent study in the US found that more than 53 per cent of news stories concern war, disaster and crime,” he said.
“The news is more terrifying than anything a kid would be allowed to see on a TV show or a movie.”
Confusing for kids
It’s also confusing for kids.
“The TV show Doctor Who features a dalek, an extraterrestrial creature hell bent on conquering the universe with a catchphrase ‘Exterminate’. However, we know that it’s not real,” said Max.
“The news features a creature with orange hair who has become president of the United States and has access to nuclear weapons, and uses the catchphrase ‘Make America great again’.”
One of the adjudicators, the NSW Labor senator Sam Dastyari, said: “I sit in the Australian Senate and I’ve got to say, not many senators can debate as well as that.”
‘Knowledge is power’
Then Grace, 10, from NSW, made her case as first speaker for the negative team.
“You’ve told us that the news is disturbing,” she said. “Well guess what? So is Harry Potter, video games and realistic fairy tales.
“Kids deserve to know. Knowledge is power. If you do not know that something is wrong, how can you change it? If you realise it’s wrong, then you can.”
Too close to call
In the end the two adjudicators, Senator Dastyari and Megan Mitchell, the national children’s commissioner, agreed the debate was a tie; both teams had argued their case with equal strength.
Media literacy was the winner.
“If you’re more media literate you’re more aware of the way media content is made, where it comes from and what its purpose is,” said Ms Mitchell. “And you also have the skills to understand, to question, analyse and evaluate media.”
On the second day of MediaMe, six of the media literacy leaders debated the topic ‘the news is not for kids’. The debate, moderated by Labor Senator Sam Dastyari and National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell, was streamed live on Facebook. The federal education minister Simon Birmingham also addressed the audience in a recorded message.