It’s no secret that bad news is everywhere. We see it at the grocery checkout, on social media, and even when we turn on the television. Today, it feels as if all news is bad and we live in a frightening world. Whether it is politics or violence, images and stories greet us every day that easily overwhelms us and we are adults. Now, imagine trying to make sense of the tragedies, wars, terrorism, and political mudslinging from our children’s point of view.
As parents, our first impulse is to shield and protect our kids from news they see or read. After all, it is our job to keep them safe. However, it is also our job to help our kids understand what is happening in the world around them so they can become compassionate and well-rounded individuals. This can cause us to ask some hard questions about the impact negative news has on our children and how kids process what they encounter.
How Does the News Affect Our Kids’ Emotions?
Research, hailing from Common Sense Media, found that almost two-thirds of our kids admit to feeling depressed, afraid, or angry after seeing the news. Those numbers are eye-opening, but the same study also found that our tweens and younger teens are more likely to report feelings of fear than their older counterparts. This could be for several reasons, but it primarily is due to the fact that they aren’t able to comprehend or make sense of everything they read or see.
There is hope, however. Out of the kids who were questioned, 70 percent of them acknowledged that they felt smarter after hearing, reading, or viewing the news. Allowing our kids access to current events and world issues is enlightening and empowering. It allows them to look past their own backyards and see the bigger picture. If a child feels more confident or informed after watching the news, we should continue allowing them access to age-appropriate materials.
5 Ways To Help Our Children Process Today’s News
Listed below are 5 tips for helping our kids make sense of the world around them:
Teach them how to determine real news. In a world that is overflowing with fake news, this can be a difficult task- especially when social media is involved. So, it should come as no surprise that in the past 6 months, approximately one-third of our kids have shared news stories online and found out later that was false. It is important they know how to find reliable news sources, check facts, and question what is being reported. Far too often, fake news is designed to only cause alarm and strong emotion. As parents, that is the last thing we want.
Develop trust within our families. The previous study also unearthed that kids are more likely to trust news heard from family members. More often than not, children will believe family over teachers, news outlets, and even their peers. We want informed kids, so it is essential we communicate regularly with them about events happening in the world. As an added bonus, we can help diffuse any fears or concerns they have.
Look for kid centered media and news outlets. Far too often, news programs and articles are geared to adults. This can leave children confused and left out of the loop. In fact, 70 percent of our children feel the media is clueless when it comes to understanding them. This is especially true for minorities and underrepresented social groups. We need to find kid friendly reliable news outlets like CNN Student News or Smithsonian’s Tween Tribune.
Help children understand the news. Kids want to be informed and current with their news facts. However, far too often the news being reported goes above their heads with large words and complicated concepts. We need to take the time to explain topics they find relevant and help them understand the big picture. Many of our youngsters are happy with simple details that give a broad overview of the topic. As they age, you can delve further into the topics to fit their maturity and understanding levels.
Make them feel safe. It’s easy for kids to feel anxiety and fear when they hear the news. We need to let children know they can talk about their feelings with us in a safe environment. Let them know that you are available to answer questions and discuss their thoughts. This will help alleviate any fears, remind them that we are a safe place to fall, and help them become well-informed individuals.
How do you handle news and media with your children?