TV TALKS TO CHILDREN ABOUT THE WAR

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The ``prime-time war,'' as the Persian Gulf conflict is being called, is bringing the images and words of war into living rooms throughout the United States. ``With all of us glued to our TV sets, children are seeing a lot stuff on the war,'' says Peggy Charren, president of Action for Children's Television in Cambridge, Mass.

Fred Rogers, of ``Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood'' fame, has stepped in to reassure parents and children who may be disturbed by what they see and hear. In public-service spots airing on public television and the Nickelodeon cable channel, Rogers discusses the war and how to cope with it.

PBS produced a special half-hour program, ``Kids Ask About War,'' which focused on allaying fears.

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On Jan. 19, ABC news anchor Peter Jennings interrupted Saturday morning's fantasyland of animated cartoons for a military briefing from Saudi Arabia. Aware that most Saturday-morning viewers are school-age children, he directed some of his introductory remarks to young people.

Later, ABC produced a live, 90-minute call-in program to answer children's questions.

Mr. Jennings, joined by ABC correspondents and military experts, fielded penetrating questions from young viewers: ``Why do they call a flight a `sortie'?'' ``What is war going to be like when the ground soldiers come out?'' ``How long do you think the war is going to go on?''

``While it was sort of tough viewing for children who are used to Day-Glo-colored stuffed animals on Saturday morning, the fact is that a lot of parents helped their children find that program and sat there with them,'' Ms. Charren says.

Young viewers interviewed after the program aired gave it generally favorable reviews. But they did have a complaint: ``They only took a few calls,'' says Kevin Boyer, an eighth-grader from Pepperell, Mass. ``It sort of answered some of the questions that I have,'' he says, ``but not all of them.''

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