Everett High School: Kids think Y2K panic bigger risk than Y2K itself.

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Has a slimy feel, no? Link On Y2K, kids fear hysteria, not bug

Teachers try to arm students with facts By JANICE PODSADA Herald Writer

Power, utilities, stoplights and television sets are expected to function when the clock strikes midnight Jan. 1, 2000.

But what about kids? How have they been functioning in the midst of concerns about Y2K?

Have adults frightened them with talk of what might go wrong?

Kids should be fine, most experts say. Lacking computer chips, children and teen-agers should continue laughing, talking, or asking to borrow the car.

Teachers say that most students are aware of the computer glitch, but they aren't expressing overwhelming fears that the world is going to shut down.

But on the off-chance they are anxious about Y2K, teachers are using the classroom as a place to discuss and thus decrease students' fears.

The Y2K bug occurs in computers that read only the last two digits of the year in dates. Without reprogramming, the systems might recognize "00" as the year 1900, instead of the year 2000. The error could cause computers to shut down or malfunction come Jan. 1.

More to be feared than the threat of malfunction is the threat of mass hysteria, said Kevin Corbett, technology instructor at Everett High School.

In his classes, students have spent as much time talking about potential public reaction as the Y2K bug itself.

"The biggest issue in the discussion was how people were going to react to it," Corbett said. "Students felt if people overreacted that would be a bigger issue than anything that could possibly be associated electronically with it."

In an informal poll of about 100 students, Corbett said about a quarter of students are concerned with the potential impact of Y2K.

"They're most worried about transportation, utilities, banking and airplanes," he said.

On the other hand, some students' biggest worry is whether their television will go on the blink.

Only one high school student told Corbett that her family was amassing extra stores of food and water for the new year.

For the most part, students see themselves as unlikely to be affected, Corbett said.

"Unlike adults, they're not going to be traveling, not going to be banking or dealing with stock-market issues," he said.

The Y2K bug doesn't concern Jami Lyle, 15, an Everett High School student.

"I've heard that everyone is scared of it," Jami said. "That it's going to affect boats and stores and a bunch of us. But I'm not worried about it."

Jami's friend, Everett High School student Kenneth Aleck, 17, said he isn't worried about Y2K either.

"My parents aren't concerned, so I'm not," Kenneth said.

Among younger children, concerns have focused on the more "sensationalistic doomsday" prophecies, fifth-grade teacher Tim Granger said. Granger teaches at Quil Ceda Elementary School in Marysville.

"Fifth-graders tend to ask about planes dropping out of the sky, dams breaking," Granger said.

In response, he tells students, for example, about the Boeing Co.'s extensive testing of their computer systems. His tack has been to provide students with information about Y2K without attaching opinions.

Dr. Bill Womack, a child psychiatrist at Children's Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle, said parents should try to understand the Y2K issue as thoroughly as possible, and then ask their children what kinds of information they've heard about the millennium bug.

Being able to answer a child's questions will help keep fears at bay.

"The better informed the parent is, the less anxious the kid is," Womack said.

That's important given that children are blanketed with information, via the Internet and television, in a way they weren't 10 or 15 years ago.

Middle- and high-school students are most likely to be affected by discussions about Y2K because of their enhanced cognitive ability, Womack said.

If parents are planning to store food or water or make changes in the home, it helps to explain their actions to the kids.

"Whatever parents are doing they need to explain to their children why they're doing it. Children want to know they're particular environment is safe."

You can call Herald Writer Janice Podsada at 425-339-3029 or send e-mail to podsada@heraldnet.com .

-- lisa (lisa@work.now), October 05, 1999


I said link.

-- lisa (lisa@work.now), October 05, 1999.

"The better informed the parent is, the less anxious the kid is ..." should probably say "The more complacent" rather than "the better informed". There are many un-anxious people out there, who I sure don't want as neighbors if things get bad.

"Children want to know they're particular environment is safe." Hey, so do adults, but sometimes you end up on a sinking ship, and it's nice to know about it before your feet get wet.

As for the main idea - that panic will be worse than the failure - well, the two risks are certainly in the same ballpark. But since we have yet to get honesty from government or corporate leaders, we won't know until it's over. Panic might be a major problem, which is why we've been telling people to prep for the panic, as well as for Y2k. Have enough groceries that you can avoid the stores in December.

Now, tell me more about that "enhanced cognitive ability", because I haven't seen it yet.

-- bw (home@puget.sound), October 05, 1999.

I'm a pretty well-informed GI, and my kids got 'the bug' from both my partner and me. This makes them (kids) feel both safe and sophisticated. They see that 'bug' information has useful practical application in teaching us how to protect ourselves.

My youngest is presently trying to decide whether she'd rather have a fancy-lunch birthday party before the end of the year, when restaurants will still likely be stocking goodies, or take a chance on waiting until the new year (her actual b'day)., when Vinnie Zucchini (food palace of choice) might be closed, but there may be all kinds of newly homeschooled kids in the neighbourhood to create a bigger celebration. Kids' "cognition" levels: they're 5 and 9.

-- PH (ag3@interlog.com), October 05, 1999.

Creepy content....kinda like the 'Twilight Zone'. Lots of soon-to-be famous last quotes in there though.

-- Charles R. (chuck_roast@trans.net), October 05, 1999.

Isn't it sad that the effectiveness of spin is tested on our kids?

-- WFK (kb2fs@mindspring.com), October 05, 1999.

It's nice that the schools are training the kids to do something useful, like work in the flak corps at the White House!

Unofortunately, underpreparation in the face of a worse than expected Y2K "3-day storm" will probably teach them the value of (over)preparation. If they survive...

-- Mad Monk (madmonk@hawaiian.net), October 05, 1999.

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