How much news coverage is OK for children?

Child watching television“Did you see…?” “Did you hear…?” “Did you know…?” These are questions that can be heard across our country and around the globe among friends and family, around water coolers and in check-out lines.” Following the tragedy in Boston, all of us have spent time listening to coverage and learning about the victims and tales of heroism. By doing so, we feel connected to Boston as this tragedy has touched us all.

As adults watch, so too do children. They are playing in a room where the TV is tuned to coverage. They hear adults talking. They may not always understand what is being said and this can increase a sense of anxiety and worry.

Older children and teens too watch and watch, gaining much of their information from the Internet and social media sites. The question is, “How much is too much?”

Following the bombing in Oklahoma City and again after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, researchers found that those children who spent most or all of their time tuned to coverage reported more symptoms related to trauma. We don’t know if watching more of the coverage makes children more anxious. Or, if those children who are already more anxious are watching more coverage.

What we do know is how important it becomes to TAKE A BREAK! Turn it off!

Talk to your children

Parents, talk to your children and teens about what they have seen and heard. Be sure there are no rumors or misunderstandings that you may need to help correct.

Adults too may be in need of taking a break from coverage. Sometimes this is easier said than done. I have a close family friend who told me, “I know I need to take a break, but I just can’t seem to turn it off. It is all so very sad.”

Turning the coverage off does not mean we feel any less sad for what has happened or that our hearts do not remain heavy as we empathize with the Boston community. But it does mean that we are taking steps to increase our resilience (and the resilience of our children) to cope in the face of difficult situations.

Tips to turn it off


  • Plan your TV/Internet viewing. Find time each morning and evening to watch. Limit this to 30-60 minutes. Then get up and do something else. It may be taking a walk, washing dishes, or even reading a book. If you continue to want to stay with TV/Internet, switch to another show or site that you have always enjoyed.
  • Enlist a buddy. For my friend (and those like her), I know she has friends and family near. Ask them to help you turn it off. Go out to lunch, see a movie, or just simply spend time together. With children, find time to play games, read, or other ways to enjoy being together. Laugh. It’s ok even in times of darkest grief.
  • Be mindful of your children. Very young children do not need to watch at all. Sometimes they do not understand that what they are seeing are replays or repetitions of what has happened and believe it may be happening again.
  • Find other ways to connect. Children may want to send pictures they made or letters they have written to Boston, to families, first responders, hospitals, or teachers.

Bottom line—the media keeps us informed, but we need to be sure we take care of ourselves. An important step is limiting our exposure to the coverage. There is an off button for a reason. Take control and use it.

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One Response to “How much news coverage is OK for children?”

  1. Ian Tomlinson   May 12, 2013 at 10:20 am

    I think the news is often more graphic and violent than any fictional TV program you would ever let your children watch. I tend not to let my children (who are young) watch the news at all.