often see or hear the news many times a day through television,
radio, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet. Seeing and
hearing about local and world events, such as natural disasters,
catastrophic events, and crime reports, may cause children
to experience stress, anxiety, and fears.
have also been several changes in how news is reported that
have given rise to the increased potential for children to
experience negative effects. These changes include the following:
channels and Internet services and sites which report the
news 24 hours a day
channels broadcasting live events as they are unfolding,
in "real time"
reporting of the details of the private lives of public
figures and role models
to get news to the public as part of the competitive nature
of the entertainment industry
and repetitive visual coverage of natural disasters and
there has been great public debate about providing television
ratings to warn parents about violence and sex in programming,
news shows have only recently been considered in these discussions.
Research has shown, however, that children and adolescents
are prone to imitate what they see and hear in the news, a
kind of contagion effect described as "copy cat"
events. Chronic and persistent exposure to such violence can
lead to fear, desensitization (immunity), and in some children
an increase in aggressive and violent behaviors. Studies also
show that media broadcasts to not always choose to show things
that accurately reflect local or national trends.
statistics report a decrease in the incidence of crime, yet,
the reporting of crime in the news has increased 240%. Local
news shows often lead with or break into programming to announce
crime reports and devote as much as 30% of the broadcast time
to detailed crime reporting.
negative effects of news can be lessened by parents, teachers,
or other adults by watching the news with the child and talking
about what has been seen or heard. The childs age, maturity,
developmental level, life experiences, and vulnerabilities
should guide how much and what kind of news the child watches.
for minimizing the negative effects of watching the news include:
sure you have adequate time and a quiet place to talk if
you anticipate that the news is going to be troubling or
upsetting to the child
the child what he/she has heard and what questions he/she
reassurance regarding his/her own safety in simple words
emphasizing that you are going to be there to keep him/her
for signs that the news may have triggered fears or anxieties
such as sleeplessness, fears, bedwetting, crying, or talking
about being afraid
should remember that it is important to talk to the child
or adolescent about what he/she has seen or heard. This allows
parents to lessen the potential negative effects of the news
and to discuss their own ideas and values. While children
cannot be completely protected from outside events, parents
can help them feel safe and help them to better understand
the world around them.
#67 Updated 11/98