Should our Children be Watching the News?

child watching the newsAs we turn on the evening news at night, it seems we are increasingly met with stories of war, terrorism, crime and disaster. And we are! Over the last 10 years, with the rise of the internet and social media, we can now be exposed all day, every-day to the worlds headlines. A recent study in the US found that over 53% of news stories pertained to crime, disaster and war. This again raises the age-old debate: Should our children be watching the news? And if so, at what age?

On one hand, news reported on the TV, radio or internet can be a positive educational experience for children to promote honest and realistic views of the world we live in. However, when the images presented are violent, or the stories touch on disturbing topics, problems may arise.

Events so far in 2015, like the execution of the two Australian convicted drug smugglers in Bali, the earthquake in Nepal, the plane crash in France and several terrorist attacks, may cause children to worry that something similar might happen to them or their loved ones. Suddenly, the uncertain and often scary outside world is transported into the protective cocoon of your family’s living room challenging your child’s innocent view of their world and the people in it.

Within the research the general consensus for the debate is realistic. That given our technology-driven society it makes shielding our children from the news near-impossible. Some parents even advocate that we need to hold our children’s hands and offer them a brief glimpse at the good, the bad and the ugly. Unfortunately, the concepts our children are exposed to exist and whether they are aware of it or not, the sooner they understand how the world works the better prepared they are to live in it.

So what is the impact of watching the news on children?

Age 2-6 years

At this age, children are quite ego-centric and have a limited ability to discern between fantasy and fiction, so the news would appear as irrelevant and meaningless to them. In addition, at this age children’s attention span can be limited for adult information or for TV programs that aren’t entertaining so few children of this age actively engage in watching the news.

Age 7-12 years

This is the most psychologically vulnerable age when it comes to children viewing the news as they know the difference between fantasy and reality but lack the ability to successfully integrate the stories they see into their core beliefs about the world and people in it. At this stage of development, children interpret the news around them in personal terms. For example, school-age children may hear about a school shooting in the US and develop anxiety around this happening at their school. Children of this age need limited exposure to the news and done so only with the support and guidance of a parent to assist with their understanding and processing of any news story.

Some helpful tips for Children (7-12):children watching the news

  • Limited exposure is recommended. Parents use discretion with what news stories are helpful and what may be harmful to your school-age child
  • Watch or listen to the news WITH your child. Refrain from allowing them to watch the news on their own.
  • Listen to the news, rather than watch it. This excludes your child viewing graphic or violent images that often accompany a news story and promotes an age-appropriate conversation regarding what is happening in the world.
  • Find out what your child already knows. The reality is our children are likely to hear about current world events whether it be in passing, on the playground or from an older sibling. By parents initiating age-appropriate conversations regarding current world events this can reduce unnecessary anxiety and ensure your child receives age-appropriate factual information.
  • Reassure your child they are safe. At this age, children want to know how something affects them and their family. Be open and honest in terms of explaining why they are safe and protected.
  • Ask yourself “What is the benefit”?

The Teen years

Adolescents these days are often active on a range of social media outlets and are exposed to current world events through this, as well as part of school assignments and school yard conversations. Parents need to ensure they remain aware what their adolescent has seen and how they are interpreting the information. Developmentally, adolescents are at the stage where they are forming their unique sense of self and identity. Processing and interpreting vivid news stories of natural disasters, looming threats of terrorists in the middle east and closer to home the Sydney siege of 2014 can create cognitive dissonance; whereby your adolescent’s views of themselves, the world around them and others are in direct contrast to the dark reality of the greater outer world.  Despite often being media savvy, adolescents do still need guidance to understand and make sense of current world events to create healthy perspective and a balanced view of the world we live in.

children watching the newsSome helpful tips for Teens:

  • Encourage them to learn more. Parents/teachers can use a conversation around current events to encourage their adolescent to seek further information or facts to bring back for further discussion
  • Encourage your adolescent to begin to develop their own unique opinion and perspective on world events. Welcome friendly discussions and differing opinions between yourself and adolescent.
  • Provide perspective and reassurance where necessary – if your adolescent is over-catastrophizing or personalising a world news story that is creating unnecessary anxiety or stress it can be helpful for the parent to provide an objective perspective and reassurance at this time
  • Continue to be involved and aware of your adolescent’s online world and ensure they do not spend too much time on following news stories. Prolonged exposure to violent or graphic images can lead to generalised fear, desensitisation and even an increase in violence.


If you feel that your child or adolescent may be struggle with anxiety or fears about what they may be exposed to within their every day life and want to seek help, contact YLO (Counselling & Intervention Services) and book an appointment with one of our psychologists.

Our clinic address is: Shop 5, 2770 Logan Road, Underwood, 4119.

Our clinic is located in Underwood Village, on the corner of Logan Road & Underwood Road.

There is free parking and close public transport to ensure easy access by our clients.

Our clinic provides a child and adolescent friendly environment that supports differing modalities of intervention. The clinic provides for wheelchair access.