Should I let my child watch the news after a tragedy?

Tamar Chansky

 After a tragedy, it's easy to get hooked on the horror when it's replayed over and over on TV, but watching can be upsetting for kids. In this video, Dr. Tamar Chansky, who specializes in anxiety, explains the ways that children are affected by news about a sad event.

Michele Borba
After a tragedy, limit your child's news access over the next few days or turn off the television. Plop in a video that you know will not have interrupted news broadcasts. Stories providing such graphic details about the mental health of a killer or the shooting scene or the medical condition of victims (or how they died) can induce stress. If your kids do watch the news, watch with them to answer their questions.

A survey of middle school children found that one of their biggest fears was those late-breaking news reports without an adult there to interpret it for them. So don't assume that your older child will not be affected by the news.

Research also shows that younger children do not have the cognitive understanding to recognize that the televised images they are seeing or hearing may be repeats. Instead, they assume the event they are watching is happening live. For instance, each time young children saw the televised images of the planes hitting the World Trade Center towers they assumed the event was live. Images of a tragedy can exacerbate a child's existing anxiety and actually increases aggression in some kids. Monitor the news.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.