News, Children, and Coronavirus Reporting
News coverage during the coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed. Political news conferences are occurring daily. Digital and print media are concentrating on fear-based stories, and coronavirus death counts to engage and hold the audience’s attention. For children, the barrage of frightening media can generate fear and anxiety, as well as exacerbate depression, substance abuse, and obsessive compulsive disorders.
Below are a few guidelines for parents to help their children stay safe:
News exposure should be based on the child’s age. Young children, ages 0-7, don’t have the capacity to understand the news and can be frightened by what they see or hear. Older children, ages 8-12, vary in ability in understanding the news, and some may still be scared by commentary or images. Teens typically can follow the news.
If your child watches the news, watch it with them.
Plan your personal news viewing away from the children. If you subscribe to print periodicals that may be upsetting to children, put them in a place where only you can have access.
If your child expresses concern, ask questions, and encourage the child to talk openly about what is troubling them.
If a public figure (athlete, politician, world leader, celebrity, or local personality) is the subject of a media story for wrongdoing and your child comments or expresses dismay, this is an opportunity to discuss your family’s values and how people of all ages make mistakes.
Not all news outlets are objective. If you have concerns about the perspective a particular news outlet presents, block it with parental controls/privacy setting controls or apps.
If you are visibly saddened by a news event, it’s OK to admit emotionality (within reason) because it gives your child permission to acknowledge their feelings.
Address children’s safety concerns and reinforce that they are safe. If there is the potential for danger, explain the safety plan your family has in place, if needed.
Find and share a positive news moment daily with your children and encourage them to do the same.
Limit screen time, as digital media is highly influential on children. If your child is only allotted 1 – 2 hours a day of screen time, chances are they won’t watch the news.
News programming is a moneymaking industry that preys on fear and can create or exacerbate mental health issues. Children are particularly vulnerable to the frightening images and news stories. Parents can be proactive in regulating news viewing, as well as be available to normalize any fears their children may experience.
We will come through this pandemic together,