My eldest daughter’s junior school has taken it upon themselves to use daily assembly to tell every pupil about the “creepy clown” craze which seems to have hit British shores over the past few days.
I’m pretty cross about this, and judging by a recent Facebook conversation I’ve observed, I’m not the only one.
I don’t pay a huge amount of attention to crazes and fads — I rarely find out about them as soon as they break, at least — and only today did I first read about sightings of people dressing up in freaky clown outfits and scaring people.
Several hours, in fact, after my daughter had been informed of a “news” story which she had no previous knowledge of.
She’s now scared that there are ‘killer clowns’ roaming around our town, out to get her. As if we don’t already have other things to deal with right now, the school has forced this upon us and not even had the decency to let us know they were going to.
This knee-jerk reaction appears to have happened because teachers were aware of some pupils (most likely those in the upper years – but remember this is still a junior school so only goes up to Year 6) talking about it.
Their “solution”? Tell everyone about it (including the vast majority who were blissfully unaware of these clowns)…
…and then tell everyone not to talk about it!
I’m surprised that teachers — who one would’ve thought understood kid psychology even a tad — thought that telling them “not to talk about it” would have any effect.
Those kids who already know about the idiot clowns will continue to talk about it.
Those unfortunate children who have now been totally freaked out by the story are going to talk about it anyway. Because they’re scared.
You scared them.
We are very careful what news we allow our kids to consume. We are not delusional — thinking we can protect them from everything or expecting them to live in a bubble separate from all the crap going on in our world — but we do monitor what they see and hear.
At least, when we have some control.
For example, there’s absolutely no benefit to them hearing specific stories about murders, rapes, wars, disasters or other horrendous things. That doesn’t mean we don’t explain what the world can be like — we just do it in general, age-appropriate ways. We also spend much more time talking about what amazing things happen every day.
“Stranger Danger” lessons seem to be something — for the most part — local schools are doing right. Instead of mentioning specific incidents, they provide general guidance to help kids stay safe and understand what to do or who to turn to when they need help.
This announcement was definitely not helpful.
(Caveat: I make that statement based on what my daughter managed to tell me. I can only go on what she has said, as the school has not told parents what was said.)
I don’t expect to know the specifics of everything my daughters are taught in school, and I know current affairs and events will always form part of teaching content.
That said, schools (particularly in the primary sector) should not assume that all children consume news and media in the same way, or can “handle” being told about difficult or scary subjects.
Yes, there’s always the risk that kids will spread rumour and misinformation in the playground — that’s just what kids do. (I still remember the story from my middle school days that there was a scary old man living in a crumbling house along a country path just up from our school.)
But for younger kids, the gossip network tends to be much smaller. They generally don’t have such a wide peer group, nor do they have unrestricted Internet or media access.
So while teachers may assume that scaremongering is rife, it shouldn’t be a surprise that — when left to run a natural course — most kids don’t know what bad things are going on.
Children who do find out can be individually counselled as appropriate, depending on their reactions and emotions.
The trouble with a scattergun approach is that the aftermath can be much harder to predict and handle.
Sadly, some news reports are suggesting a second wave of potentially criminal – or at least dangerous – behaviour as kids as young as eight (now freaked out by even the possibility of clowns on the loose) are carrying makeshift or actual weapons.
Making universal announcements has the potential to exacerbate symptoms. At very least, many more weary parents now have another emotional trauma to deal with. One that, in many cases, was completely avoidable.
I have a lot of respect for teachers, both collectively and individually, but please think about what you’re telling our kids (especially in a group setting) and what possible effects your words will have on them.