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Do you remember the movie Back to the Future that was popular in the ‘80’s?
This iconic film takes us on a journey with Marty McFly as he travels back in time and struggles to get back to 1985 where he belongs. This story is science fiction, but lately many of us are secretly questioning if we are revisiting the past. All we have to do is turn on the news or read the headlines to make us question this possibility.
Today, we are greeted with stories about Russia, North Korea, Nazi’s, calls for impeachment, civil rights, and more. Whether it is a viral social media post or a clip on the local morning show, many of us feel like we are bombarded with negativity and issues that were buried in the history books. As we stumble across fake news, mudslinging politicians, tumultuous world events, terrorism, and natural disasters, it is only normal to question how this is affecting our children’s mental health.
The Role News Media Plays in Teen Mental Health
In a recent research study, nearly two-thirds of our youngest teens have admitted to feeling anxious, fear, grief, or depressed after exposure to today’s news. Alone, this statistic is heartbreaking. After all, we ultimately want to provide a safe environment for our kids. This finding can lead us to consider banning media in our homes as a last ditch effort to protect our kids from all the negativity and fears in today’s news.
However, we need to consider the same study also unearthed 70 percent of teens also felt smarter after viewing, reading, or listening to the news. This startling fact is important because even though the world can be frightening, the news provides them valuable opportunities to comprehend world events and be part of a bigger picture. The news fosters awareness, which gives our children opportunities to develop empathy and compassion.
5 Essential Steps to Make the News Less Frightening
It’s no secret that we want to give our kids the tools needed to succeed in society and life- not hold them back. However, this is easier said than done in today’s world. To help make the news less frightening and more empowering, scroll through the following tips:
Be involved and informed. The study from above also mentioned that our kids are more likely to trust or believe news told from a member of their family. It is essential we begin an ongoing conversation about current events and social media so we know our boys and girls are getting correct information. This will help combat fear and misinformation while ensuring our children are kept in the loop.
Make teens feel safe. Today’s news headlines and stories often make many of us anxious and fearful- and we are adults. Now, imagine filtering today’s news through the eyes of a child. We can help reduce fear and anxiety by letting our kids know they are able to discuss their beliefs, thoughts, questions, and feelings. Even though we might disagree with our child, we need to provide a safe environment at home. Try to avoid name calling, fear mongering, blaming, and yelling. We can also set limits for digital devices and create technology free zones in our homes to reduce the media’s influence.
Take advantage of news outlets and media created for youth. We can bypass a lot of negative and inappropriate content, by finding reliable news geared for kids and teens.
Teach ways to distinguish “fake” news from the real deal. Fake news is a hot topic, especially in the world of politics, but there is some truth behind all the claims. As social media and a host of new media outlets have become mainstream, we see a lot of fake news in typical “click bait” articles and videos. While this type of news is great for sharing on social media, it can be difficult at times to know if the reporting is accurate or created with the sole intention of stirring fears. We need to make sure our kids know how to find reliable news sources, fact check, and question the reporting.
Don’t over explain topics. We know our kids want to be informed, however, it’s common for the news media to go above a child’s head with complex terminology and concepts. Our children might struggle to comprehend or understand the topics. Keep explanations simple and offer a basic overview of the subject. If a teen has questions, feel free to go into more detail if asked or as needed.
How is your teen’s mental health affected by today’s news?