Should young children be exposed to media coverage of frightening news events?

Should young children be exposed to media coverage of frightening news events?

Steps little kidIt seems natural to want protect our children from some of the horrors that hit the news – particularly anything involving the death or disappearance of a child. We worry they might not understand what they’re seeing or listening to, become frightened or have nightmares. But will keeping them away from real events help in the long run?

‘It’s every parent’s decision how much they expose their children to the news,’ says Elisabeth Dark, clinical psychologist at Lyn Fry Associates. ‘But if you do think it’s important that you child knows what’s going on in the world, you need to be with her while they’re watching or listening to the news.’

Handled correctly, it can be a good preparation for later life. ‘As long as you discuss what you’ve seen and talk about how certain things are unfair, you are teaching her skills she’ll need as she grows up,’ says Lyn. ‘Even if your child is sensitive, it’s not necessarily a good idea to protect her from what is going on in the outside world.’

The golden rules

  • Watch or listen to the news with your child – particularly when a big story has broken so she doesn’t pick things up that may scare her from friends.
  • Discuss what you’ve just heard and seen. Allow your child to ask any questions and reassure her that the reason these events normally make the news is because they are rare.
  • Carefully monitor your child’s response and look out for any changes in her behaviour or nightmares. If she starts to get bad dreams, talk about her concerns, reassure her that she’s safe and give her lots of affection.
  • Focus on your child’s interests when watching and discussing the news and establish how much information she can take.
  • Don’t pass on any anxiety to your child. ‘You need to be careful what you say around children,’ says Dark. ‘You don’t want to instil anxiety in them – if you are anxious, they’ll pick this up.’

Now tell us what worked for you…

Do you let your child watch the news? Share your stories…

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