The intense media coverage that accompanies traumatic events, such as war, acts of terrorism and natural disasters, can be very disturbing for children and teens. Certain young people are particularly vulnerable and some can be seriously distressed simply by watching TV replays of such events.
Parents, educators, health practitioners and others who work with kids can help to lessen anxieties arising from the coverage of catastrophic events.
There are five key ideas that help kids think critically about media. You can start to make your kids aware of these concepts almost as soon as they start asking you questions!
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Did you know that almost a quarter of adults have shared a false news story, and that we’re least likely to fact-check news and other things that come to us through people we know and trust on social networks (even though for many people these are their most common sources of news)?
Along with images of natural disasters and violence, one all-too-common news item that can be distressing to kids is reports of hate crimes. Seeing or hearing about hate-motivated assaults and vandalism of homes, cemeteries and places of worship in media, can lead to fear and anxiety in young people, especially if they belong to a vulnerable group. In many cases, the effect will be worse because news isn’t the only place Canadian kids see hate and racism: almost half see hateful content online at least once a month, and one in six sees it every day.
Images of men and women in the media are often based on stereotypical roles of males and females in our society. Because stereotyping can affect how children feel about themselves and how they relate to others, it’s important that they learn to recognize and understand gender stereotypes in different media.
It’s important to pay close attention to what children see in the news because studies have shown that kids are more afraid of violence in news coverage than in any other media content. By creating a proper perspective and context for news and current events programs, we can help kids develop the critical thinking skills they need to understand news stories and the news industry.
Talking to kids about violence in the media they consume – television, movies, video games, music and the Internet – can help them put media violence into perspective and perhaps diffuse some of its power.
Online news is one of the hardest things to verify. Sometimes early reports that turn out not to be true still circulate on the Internet, and people may spread false reports for commercial or malicious reasons, or even just for “fun.”