As President Trump kicks off his 2020 campaign in Florida today, parents concerned with managing their children’s screen time have a new worry: managing their children’s Trump time. Because the fact is that wherever there are cameras, microphones, or mobs of (white) people, there will be Trump and his lies, vitriol, and racism. Though Trump is likely to campaign on the strength of the economy, it is also very clear that he also plans to campaign on his myriad grievances against the media, politicians, law enforcement officials, refugees generally, the poor, the black, and whomever else he feels has questioned his competence, legitimacy, or manliness. This is bad content for kids. Though the long-term adverse effects of this rhetoric are unknown, Trump time, like screen time is a concerning variable in kids development.
Parents need to step in and manage the situation. It is, after all, going to be a very long and hard-fought campaign.
This isn’t just liberal snowflake cuck east coast intelligentsia leftist Twitter-user hand-wringing — though Trump supporters will be tempted to dismiss it thusly. According to a Common Sense Media report, 63 percent of kids say that the news makes them feel sad, depressed or angry. Trump’s message travels via the news and it’s not a hopeful one. On the contrary, Trump’s America is dark and full of terrors. It’s filled to brimming with illegal immigrants who are hell-bent on killing American citizens, MS-13 gang members, and deranged terrorist Muslims. The politicians running the country who disagree with him are “losers.” Reporters are the “enemy of the people.” Trump is running for president of the country described daily on Fox News, which has made ginning up anxiety among old people into a highly effective business model.
Turns out that young people are susceptible to the same anxieties. And even if parents are hip to Trump’s nonsense, there’s still plenty to be sad, depressed and angry about. That is not, unfortunately, fake news.
Thankfully, the guidelines for helping a kid navigate Trump time are pretty much the same as helping them navigate screen time. Parents need to set limits and remain engaged with the content. Look, just like screen time, every parent will arrive at their own limit of Trump time. Some might demand no Trump time. Other’s might be willing to expose their kid to an hour a week or more. That’s a parent’s prerogative. After all, while experts do have guidelines, there is no real consensus as to the long term effects of screen time or Trump time on a child’s future well-being.
However, experts agree that an engaged parent can help a kid navigate the content they’re exposed to, whether it be an app they’re playing or a series of incoherent soundbites on the radio. What’s important is that parents offer perspective and context for what their kids are seeing or hearing. It’s very easy for kids to believe that the media they consume has a real and pressing effect on their immediate lives. The cartoon villain on the television (no, not Trump) is frightening because to a child’s brain that villain is real and present in their living room.
It’s the same with things said at Trump’s campaign rallies. A kid that hears illegal immigrants are here to kill American citizens will naturally come to the conclusions that the apocryphal Mexican hoodlums are right outside their very door. So, it’s important for parents to offer reassurance. When kids are scared, parents can acknowledge their feelings and talk about reality as honestly and as age-appropriately as they can. They can remind kids that they know Mexican people and that those people are responsible and kind members of their community — or, barring that, that they aren’t criminals. This might be a hard conversation or an awkward conversation but the effort will help to quell a child’s anxiety.
The only issue is that none of this will do anything to help the parents anxiety. And it’s important to acknowledge that there will be plenty of that too in the coming 18 months. Kids pick up on that anxiety. They know when a parent is feeling tense and when a parent is feeling relaxed.
Given that it’s a presidential election and that the choices are going to stark, it may not be the time to tune out completely, but parents need to be intentional in their approach to exposing their children to Trump or they will either frighten the kids or inspire them — bullying of minority students increased drastically in Trump-friendly districts during the 2016 election.
When it comes to screen time, it’s important that parents put their own screen down to in order to model good behavior. The same goes for Trump time. The best course of action may not simply be limiting access. Kids don’t need to know who the president is and might benefit from learning respect for the office. But they will not benefit from listening to hate or lies.