As a general rule, I've always tried to keep my kids aware of what is going on in the world around them. However, I've also often shielded them from a lot of the brutality and injustice in the world. I didn't let them watch all the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings. They've never seen some of the amazing documentaries on 9-11. I do this because I think that images stay with you forever, and at young ages, they simply don't need those images in their heads. It's enough that they know the stories of what happened.
Yesterday was another one of those days where I felt it was important for my kids to know what was happening in the world but that they didn't need all the gory details. Twelve people died in a Paris magazine office yesterday because someone didn't agree with what they printed in their magazine. That may seem like it's far away and not relevant to our kids, but the truth is that if it has to do with protecting freedom, it's relevant to any child old enough to understand what freedom is.
I'm not suggesting that you should provide your kids with an in-depth dissertation on what happened yesterday, but I am suggesting that if your kids have heard about the shootings that you use it as a springboard to a discussion with them. Because freedom is important, and our kids need to know that from an early age.
Living in the United States it's all too easy to take our freedoms for granted. We don't have to wonder if the police are going to beat down our door because we own a Bible. We can go where we want and say what we want. We exercise our freedoms every day without giving them a second thought.
But an attack like yesterday's attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices is an attack on freedom everywhere. We need to talk with our kids about freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It can seem sometimes like the press has an agenda they want to push or an angle they want to pursue. But the truth is that most journalists (and I can speak to this because I've spent a lot of my life being one) simply want to write a good story that's as honest as they can make it. Do personal biases bleed through? Absolutely -- because journalists are human beings. But the vast majority of journalists at your local newspapers are simply trying to provide your community with the information it needs.
Talking with our kids about freedom of speech and freedom of the press is important for a few reasons:
1. A free press helps guarantee a free country. A free press is allowed to dig into the things the government is doing. It keeps the government in check. The press has exposed corruption and illegal activities in the government too many times to count. Without a free press, the government operates in secret.
2. A free press helps guarantee your free speech. The first thing to get muzzled in a tyrannical government is the press. As long as the press is allowed to be free, your speech is allowed to be free.
3. A free press is allowed to propagate unpopular opinions. We're always telling our kids to stand up for what is right, but sometimes what's right isn't what's popular. Because our press and our speech is protected, we can continue to say things that may be right but not popular.
If you're struggling to start a conversation with your kids about the events that happened in Paris yesterday, try some of these questions to get the ball rolling:
1. Why do you think people would want to stop the magazine from printing certain things?
2. Do you think that if an opinion is unpopular people shouldn't print it or put it on the Internet?
3. What do you think God thinks about freedom? (Check out Galatians 5:1)
4. Why do you think the founders of our country thought a free press was important enough to put in the Constitution?
Paris seems a long way away to most of our kids. But the events that happened there yesterday are worth talking to your kids about. Because if we raise a generation that doesn't value freedom of the press and freedom of speech, it will be really easy to lose those freedoms.