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When Disaster Strikes Through the TV

News cycles that profit off constant, sensationalized negativity aren't helping

A hundred years ago it would have been unimaginable to watch a tragedy unfold on the other side of the world. Such news might get peddled via newspaper, or later through radio, but the access we now enjoy to the rest of the world is unprecedented. How is that affecting us?

According to this study, covered in an article from The Conversation, televised disaster and tragedy can severely affect the mental health of children to varying degrees. The authors write,

Our latest research uses brain scans to show how simply watching news coverage of disasters can raise children’s anxiety and trigger responses in their brains that put them at risk of post-traumatic stress symptoms. It also explores why some children are more vulnerable to those effects than others.

This risk is important for parents and media to understand. In just a few months of 2022, news coverage was saturated with images of wildfires burning through neighborhoods in Colorado, tornado damage across the Midwest, a school shooting in Michigan and news of rising illnesses from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Disaster news on TV and social media can trigger post-traumatic stress in kids thousands of miles away – here’s why some are more vulnerable (yahoo.com)

Some children can develop symptoms of PTSD, while the majority do not. Nonetheless, news cycles that profit off constant, sensationalized negativity aren’t helping. The authors continue:

Sensationalized 24-hour news cycles on television and online are part of the reasonstudies suggest. These media are designed to attract viewers and keep them engaged. This is especially true for content on social media, which often contains more graphic images and scenes than typically broadcast by more traditional news sources.

In order to continue the shock factor, news reportage naturally tends to get darker and more graphic over time. The study shows that perhaps it would be wise to protect children from such exposure to such news until they can more readily handle it. In the meantime, even adults would probably do well to limit the time they spend perusing bad news and dwell on the positive, beautiful aspects of life in order to maintain a healthy perspective of the world.

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When Disaster Strikes Through the TV