Children and media….it’s a serious topic to discuss.
The influence of media on youth and their psychosocial development is extreme.
Terrorism. School shootings. Sexual harassment allegations.
There is a never-ending stream of negative content in the media today.
Professional counselor Phyllis Fagell points out,
“It’s not like terrorism is new or social difficulties are new. I think what’s different is the complete media saturation.
Kids have computers in their pockets. They’re getting their news from their peers, from their schools, from TV, from computers, and it’s a 24/7 news cycle. So I think that extra level of oversaturation is what’s different than when I was growing up in the 1980s.
I was a child listening to Peter Jennings or other news anchors on TV, and it was just time constrained. So maybe it was on during dinner, and then it was off, and then I went to sleep.
And the other thing that’s different is when we were growing up we were there with our parents, and they were seeing what we were seeing and they were hearing what we were hearing and they could discuss it with us in real time.
Now kids are hearing it all over the place and are not necessarily with an adult or with a guardian or anybody who can process the news with them.”
With kids being exposed to negativity and violence in the media on such a regular basis and fear and anxiety among teens becoming more common, many parents are wondering how they should address it with their kids.
We asked Happiness and Relationship Expert Natasha Sharma to share her thoughts on children and media.
For Young Kids: No News
“I am a believer, especially for young kids, so let’s say before the age of six, seven maybe even eight, no news. It’s not important for them to understand…
Most kids actually don’t really have that much interest and that’s I think what is the gift of being young and I think there’s no need to sort of interfere with that natural self-centeredness. Focus on your toys and your parents and your friends.
It’s a very uncluttered time in life. I think that to interfere with that with too many stories and all these things is kind of taking a piece of childhood away.”
Balance Exposure with Conversation (But Don’t Over-Do It)
“Slowly start to expose kids to things: TV shows as well as the news. Without overwhelming them or overburdening them. And keep it very normal in the home.
One thing I’m finding, in terms of parenting trends, is over-talking or over-conversating with your kids in an effort to, sort of, compensate for this lack of attention to emotions. And that actually can have a reverse impact.
It’s kind of like over-praising.
I’m sure you’ve probably read research about over-praising and anything in excess is usually not a healthy approach or the healthiest approach…
The more normal parents and caregivers feel about things or the more adjusted they are to what’s happening around them, that becomes the fabric of the household…
I think it really starts with setting a tone of bringing a balanced amount of exposure to certain harsher realities and how you cope with the fact that life really isn’t very fair. There are lots of things that will happen around the world that will bring sadness, grief, tension. And how you start to learn about that a young age and accept it, in the sense that it does happen and that it doesn’t have to be your backpack in life.”
Always Be Checking In
“I would say not even to bring it up unless they bring it up themselves. Okay, if they bring it up, absolutely. It’s worth talking about, especially if they look like they want to talk about it and as kids get older they will.
The majority of them will hear about something, especially in high school and beyond. They’ll study something in a political science class or history or they’ll just see it or hear about it on social media or through friends or TV.[For older kids] it’s worth always checking in to see if there are certain things your kid wants to talk to you about, even if they don’t come forward with it. And certainly, if they do come forward with things like, ‘I can’t believe those attacks in Paris or in Vegas.’
That’s an opening to definitely chat about that as a family or just one-on-one with that child.
But I would do that for older kids and for the younger ones, if they haven’t brought it up let them live in ignorant bliss.”
Summary: Children and Media
So while it’s never easy to have the tough conversations with your kids, Natasha Sharma gives some great advice on how to handle children and media with a healthy balance:
- For young kids: no news
- Balance exposure with conversation (but don’t over-talk the issue)
- Always be checking in
What are you experiencing at home?
Do your kids come to you with questions?
Are you talking about it?
Or do you try to keep the news out of your house entirely?
We would love to hear your thoughts!