Take Caution when Children are Aware of Tragedies that have Occured

Caution Tape

Article by Wendy McCance

This week has been a long and painful one.  The tragedy at the Boston Marathon has been are hard one to process.  The story has been running constantly on the television and is all over the web.

I have been extra cautious about how much time my kids are spending watching the news and reading stories on the web.

It’s a difficult balance, making sure that the kids aren’t shielded completely from such a horrific tragedy and at the same time aren’t become burdened down by the endless onslaught of news coverage.

Apparently, the school district has decided to discuss the events in classrooms and some teachers have had the news on during class.

My oldest daughter has a Global Issues class.  They have talked about the Boston Marathon nonstop all week.  Although I am glad she is discussing the situation with her peers in a very appropriate class, I still worry that it’s becoming too much.

As soon as the kids would get home each day, the news would go on and they would sit glued to the television set.  We would discuss what had happened and what this means for the country.  One of my kids who has become fascinated with the legal aspects of this case has asked a lot of questions about what happens when the suspect is caught and how do the police know for sure they have the right people.

For all of the important discussions that have taken place at home because of the events that took place, I still became concerned when those kids were sitting glued to the television for too long, so I turned the channel.

I became concerned that too much coverage would cause more anxiety and fear in the kids.  I’m not looking to shield them, but I just don’t think that long hours absorbing scary images that are hard for anyone to process can be very healthy for them.

At the time, I got a lot of complaints from the kids.  They thought I was overreacting about how much time they spent watching the news. They mentioned how it was all over Facebook and being talked about in class.  I didn’t care that they thought they could handle it.  It was just too much.

Last night as the suspect was apprehended, the kids did see how things played out.  That night, in the middle of the night, two kids ended up coming into my room, scared.  It had become too much and they wanted to sleep in our room.  You have to understand that these aren’t little kids.  I’m talking about a middle school kid and a child in high school.

Apparently, a combination of the images they saw combined with the fear that the kid caught seemed like anyone they would go to school with, freaked them out.

The takeaway here is that kids take in so much more than what we realize.  They hold in a lot of fear that they don’t share.  When bad events happen, it’s important to acknowledge what has happened.  You should discuss it with your kids.  At the same time, I think there is a time when you need to pull the plug and get the kids away from obsessing over what has happened.  There is a fine line between educating your children on life’s bad moments and filling their heads beyond what they can take and process.


Wendy McCance

Wendy McCance is a Michigan based freelance writer and social media consultant. Wendy has gained attention as the founder of the popular blog Searching for the Happiness which can be viewed in 6 local papers online, including the Oakland Press.The combination of writing skills and social media knowledge is what makes Wendy such a powerhouse to work with. Stay tuned for opportunities to advertise, guest post and as always, have your questions answered.

To contact Wendy McCance about a writing assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: [email protected]

16 thoughts on “Take Caution when Children are Aware of Tragedies that have Occured

  1. Wendy, I am so glad you wrote this, it needs to be said. I too, have worried about how much children are seeing so many hours a day. Even myself as a grown woman, must be aware of how much negative, detailed news is pouring into my life about so many awful and sad things going on in the world. I hope many parents of little ones will read this.

  2. What a great post and something more people should read, now my girls are all grown but I remember when they were little I didn’t like them being exposed to much of the horrors of the world I didn’t think they needed to know about it all…………

  3. I think it’s the old two edged sword, on one side we have news at our fingertips, instant, in our faces. On the other hand there is the fallout involved with people having this information and not being able to do anything other than watch as it unfolds. For children it can be terrifying (and some adults) especially with the blurring of reality from make believe to real life. How many times can you watch a bomb going off? The distance factor becomes involved here, the closer it is to home the more compelling it is to watch and the knowledge that it is ‘just around the corner’ brings home the delicate thread of our mortality. Horrendous things happen in the world every day and we think, Hmm, that’s terrible and change the channel. I remember as a boy reading about the Cuban missile crisis, the world came close to nuclear war, now that was scary. It was banner headlines for days in the papers and one thing I loved was reading the newspaper. I remember schoolmates were terrified, probably because their parents were to. We didn’t have a television yet the feeling still moved through the community. We were living in a migrant hostel in Sydney at the time, just about every adult there (from the UK and Europe) had been through or were heavily involved in WW2. They knew what could happen and were apprehensive, so it’s no stretch to realise that children today are no different to what we were and fear still drives us. Talk to them about it, tell them they’ll be fine, turn the television off and get them out playing-they don’t need the trauma.

  4. Wendy- an incredibly thoughtful and insightful blog.

    You raise some excellent questions about the difficult balance of what to say/what to let kids see.

    I think, as adults, we have to try to process the information ourselves first, before we decide what to share with our children. Yet, the events of the past week in Boston came with an ever-changing intensity that challenged even the strongest and wisest among us.

    I believe television coverage/viewing for events like this should be limited. Research has shown that as TV stations constantly “loop” footage of the horrific scenes over and over again, we experience and re-experience them-certainly not good for adults, and definitely not good for kids of any age.

    As Vicky observed above, saturation in information can be dangerous.

    As a teacher, I believe that constant exposure/discussion during the week to the events in Boston via your daughter’s Global Issues class was not a wise decision by the teacher. So I respectfully disagree with that decision, and the district’s decision to allow TV on. It’s a great responsibility to do this in a classroom, where kids cannot just leave or turn away if it all becomes too much for them. JMHO.


  5. Hi Wendy! Great article as always. I think you are extremely wise to monitor their exposure, in my opinion. First of all, no one questions when we monitor computer time, junk food or even music. However, because it’s “the news” there are people who think it’s silly or over-parenting to get involved. The reality is, unfortunately, that no matter how responsible the news coverage is, it is often overkill. I had the news on Monday all day. From the moment i heard about what happened until the minute I left to get my kids. Then I had it on mute upstairs while I popped my head in regularly to get “the latest.” (My children are 6.5 and 9). Not surprisingly, I felt so anxious and depressed as the night went on. I realized that my constantly “checking in” I never got a break from the information which, to be quite honest, was rarely different from the information I received 10 minutes ago when I popped my head in. When we are glued to the t.v. for the “latest” we are quick to forget that the lastest is actually old news becuase there have been few to no developments.

    I guess my point is that for adults and espceically children, being saturated in information can be dangerous. Monitoring and limiting exposure does not shield any of us from the realities of life. However, it allows us to break the surface and catch our breath and continue on with life which is important. Checking back in every few hours allows us to do just that and be up to date with “the latest.”

  6. My three step-children live in Boston and it was a very disconcerting moment when my fiances 14 year old daughter called her dad to ask if she was going to die. I blogged about it myself today because I needed to get the thoughts out of my system, but I think you are right, after a certain point, pulling away a bit is a good idea.

    • It was such are hard issue for anyone to wrap their head around. I think in some ways the high school kids had the hardest time. Old enough to truly understand what was happening, but still too young in life to have toughened up yet.

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