Volume 18 • Issue 49 | April 21 - 27, 2006

Downtown family objects to 9/11 footage on children’s show

By Alex Schmidt

Like everyone else who was living Downtown on 9/11, Bill Wadsworth and his wife found their own way of coping with their physical proximity to the attacks. They made the decision not to discuss the incident with their son and daughter, who were 5 and 2 at the time. And neither has brought it up – until, that is, this past Sunday night, April 16, when a show on Nickelodeon Junior, Nick News, broadcast images of the towers collapsing, bringing up anxieties that the family had tried to bury.

“Linda Ellerbee comes on, and suddenly my wife is looking at pictures of the towers. All of that footage was being broadcast on a children’s show, at 8:30, with no forewarning to anyone else,” Wadsworth said. “And the effect that it had was that our daughter said, ‘Mommy where did that happen?’ and before my wife could say anything her brother said, ‘Right here.’ My wife – it brought her right back to 9/11 – she was weeping the entire night. All she could think about was standing at the window with our son watching the towers come down.” The footage was included as part of a segment on children’s reactions to the Iraq war, which Wadsworth said he would have been fine with letting his children see, but “to [show 9/11 images] on a broadcast to children seemed an absolute pit of television of irresponsibility.”

Wadsworth stressed that he was not trying to censor his children’s awareness of events, but rather that it is up to a parent to decide “when and how to deal with the difficult material in life, whether it’s sex or death or bad things that can happen on the street.” When his children, who are now 9 and 6, become teenagers and are able to intellectualize events, Wadsworth says he intends to discuss the attacks with them. For now, though, he says that the images are “a way of saying to your 6-year-old child: in your neighborhood, in your house, be afraid, be very afraid. At any moment you could be blown to pieces. That’s not a message you want to send your 6 year-old child about the security of home and family.”

Wadsworth has written a letter to Viacom, which owns Nickelodeon, but has received no response from the company. He said that at this point he does not plan on a lawsuit and he would be happy if the company issued “a sincere acknowledgement.” If however, Viacom comes back with “some corporate statement,” Wadsworth said, “I don’t know what we would do.”

Nickelodeon did not comment for attribution, but a spokesperson said, on the condition of anonymity, that the station recommends that parents watch the Ellerbee show with their children, and they should be at least 9 years old, the same age as Wadsworth’s son.


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