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War and terrorism in TV news affects
children... not for the good

Children and violence in TV: it is prudent to limit exposure

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It is not only the video games and movies we parents need to beware of - NEWS in television, newspapers, or on the Internet have for a long time been filled with violent acts and crimes, war, and terrorism to the extent that watching (or even reading) the news can be just as harmful to your child as violent movies or games.

Photo courtesy of Free-Stock-Photos.com

Initially, watching or reading news about terrorist acts and war usually disturb children and make them fearful. Georgetown University Psychology Department conducted a study on elementary school children's reactions to 9-11 events. Of the children in the study, 85 percent indicated that their basic sense of security and safety were shaken by the September 11 attacks. This insecurity resulted probably from watching too much distressing TV news reports in the days after the attacks when schools were closed.

"As far as I know, it was children not directly associated with the attacks," Psychology Department Chair, Deborah  Phillips said. "No one lost a family member, so I was surprised to find such high levels of stress. I expected maybe half, not 85 percent."

Overall, Phillips said she feels the study shows that parents need to pay closer attention to their children's behavioral reactions. Also, she said parents should pay closer attention to their children's prolonged exposure to stressful and traumatic television news.
Study Examines 9/11 Effects on Children, the Hoya, Georgetown University's Newspaper, May 17 2002. The study itself is titled "Elementary School Children's Responses Three Months after the September 11 Terrorist Attacks: A Study in Washington, DC," and appeared in American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 74 (2004).

Image courtesy of freegraphics.org

It has been shown time and time again that being exposed to violence does influence children - and not for the good. Kids who see violence often can become numbed by it so that they do not consider it anymore any "big deal" to see another human being killed. Eventually they may start accepting violence and force as a means to solve their problems.

Violent programs on television lead to aggressive behavior by children and teenagers who watch those programs (See for example Violence in the Media by American Psychological Association). Wise parents who want to raise their children to understand that violence and fighting are not the answer to solve problems will severely limit their children's exposure to news, and control what little bits they are allowed to see/read.

Talking is also needful

But that is not all there is to it. It is not enough to control what they see, because children will hear about current events in school or in the Internet anyway, even if you sold your tube and never bought a newspaper. Parents need to also TALK with their children about news events, answer their questions and concerns, and explain what is right and what is wrong.

Another study conducted by the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) and the University of Rochester School of Nursing, found that US children and teens were significantly more worried about how to cope with stress after September 11 attacks than before, while parents actually worried less about how their children were coping with stress after 9/11.

It also found a big gap between the number of parents who say they talk to their children about anxiety, stress, and depression, and the number of children who say their parents talk to them about these issues.  (About 80% of parents said they talk to their children at least sometimes about anxiety, but only about 37% of their children said the same about talking with their parents. And 72% of parents said they talk at least sometimes with their children about depression, while only 36% of their children said the same.)

You can see the full article of this study in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care issue September/October 2002 Volume 16 Number 5. (Mental health worries, communication, and needs in the year of the U.S. terrorist attack: National KySS survey findings)

This basically means that parents think they are talking to their kids, but for some reason the kids either don't think so or are not hearing it. That is a dangerous situation. Children and young people need an adult, a mentor, who they can trust and talk to about difficult issues. Children and teens are not yet mature enough to cope on their own, but need guidance and a safe place to ask questions and share their concerns.

Another researcher, Judith Myers-Walls, a Purdue University Extension Specialist in Child development and family studies, has similar findings from her research on children's reactions to wars and disasters. In the interviews with children and parents after the Sept. 11 attacks, almost 25 percent of parents reported that they never talked to their children about war, while over 40 percent of children reported that they hadn't had such conversations with their parents. (When War is in The News by Judith A. Myers-Walls)

This means that some parents thought they talked about it, but the children either didn't remember or didn't recognize the topic. Talking about war will require more than one conversation. It is not easy, but it is the only way to prevent your children from getting so used to violent acts that they become numbed to it.

Whoever has the most influence will win.  If your child spends more time with the entertainment industry and news media than with good influence from you, school, and other adults, then the influence from the the former will have a weightier say in what kind of values and morals your child will embrace.

Read more:How to talk with kids about war and terrorism
Art therapy can help children express their feelings




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