Media Exposure and Traumatic Events: How Much is Too Much?
Media coverage of natural disasters and other traumatic events is often exhaustive. Parents need to ask themselves how they want to regulate their children’s consumption of this coverage, whether it is via television, the internet, radio or other media.
Media coverage can provide children and parents with valuable information. It can keep people informed and connected.Yet, exposure to repeated media coverage of traumatic events and natural disasters can result in trauma-related effects for some children. Children with a history of traumatic stress could be re-traumatized as a result of repeated exposure to media coverage. It is critical that parents and school professionals be aware of the possibility of re-traumatizing children and be prepared to act on the stress and trauma-related effects that may follo exposure to media coverage about disasters or terrorism.
Age guide to children's reactions to news about war, terrorism and natural disasters
It is not always possible to judge if or when children are scared or worried about news they hear. Children may be reluctant to talk about their fears or may not be aware of how long they are being affected by the news. Parents can look for clues as to how their child is reacting. Please refer to Chapter 1 for more information on common reactions to traumatic events. Children’s age influences their reactions to stories they hear and images they see about violent acts or traumatic events in the media.Younger children may be most upset by the sights and sounds they see and hear regarding terrorism or natural disasters. It is important to consider children’s maturity level when making decisions about how much information to share about acts of war and
- Can be easily overwhelmed by news about war, terrorism or natural disasters
- May confuse reality and facts with their fantasies
- Do not have the ability to keep events in perspective
- May be unable to block out troubling thoughts
- May personalize the news they hear, relating it to events or issues in their lives
- Are concerned about separation from parents
- May ask questions about children in the news who are alone or lost a parent
- Focus on good and bad behavior, and may bring up topics related to their own good and bad behaviors
Reprinted with the permission of the NYU Child Study Center. © NYU Child Study Center.
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