"Do you think Ma has a cut on his head?"

This from the little voice beside me, as I stared in incredulous horror at the screen, watching the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake in minute-by-minute detail, as, I suppose, did most of the country.

Ma, which is what my son calls his grandfather, who lives, with his Granny, in Christchurch.

I had forgotten as I sat dumbfounded, that even at four the child might be able to put two and two together. He of course came up with five, but he could have just as easily been on the button.

In the event my in-laws were ok, I was relieved to report to him. But I was dubious about how we would be able to go and visit them in the foreseeable future.

Not only is the city in disarray, but frankly, I am scared to take my children into a known earthquake zone. I can't imagine what the parents of that city are going through as they try and explain the deadly might of nature to their young kids - and how random and unpredictable it is.

The issue, for my son at least, wasn't the buildings collapsed, the roads upended and the water gushing down roads.

It was the people crying, and those with blood all over their heads, which - it has to be said - were lingered on by the news crews on the scenes and producers back in Auckland. He couldn't stop asking questions about it.

Finally I had the good sense to turn it off, but probably not before the images of those broken heads were imprinted on his memory.

Soon after, his father was sent down himself to become part of the media contingent on the scene.

"Don't cut your head!" my son chirped as his father walked out the door with his notepad, and fresh water and food for his holed-in parents.

The question is, should young children be shielded from watching a real disaster unfold, or is it better to be exposed to the (often confronting) reality of life?

Rolling television coverage of big events through the day and into the night is a relatively new thing, and - by extension - there is little time and inclination to edit hours and hours of footage.

Some people call it "disaster porn", others - news junkies, in the main - appreciate knowing every gruesome detail.

Being a journalist myself, and married to one, we have always been in the latter category.

But I must admit as a mother I wondered about how it might affect the littlies. And another thought occurred: what if we had tuned in and inadvertently seen the kids' grandparents being carried out, crushed and moaning and covered in blood?

Whatever the case, there is no doubt we are lucky that we can turn the TV off, walk away from the set and try and distract easily distractable minds from the horror unfolding (while remaining deeply affected by it ourselves).

It's not a luxury the terrified and traumatised people of Christchurch will have for a long while.