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The Psychological Effects of Breaking News


Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria; fires in California, Washington State, and Oregon; marches in Charlottesville; demonstrations in D.C.; and shootings in Las Vegas. Watching the news, listening to the radio, or reading a local newspaper disrupts emotional competency. Bad or negative news, actual or perceived, trigger anxiety, fear, and an emotional imbalance in children, adolescents, teens, and adults. Acknowledging this, many limit exposures to visiting websites and watching news programs which champion their beliefs or way of thinking. Others turn everything off in an attempt to protect themselves psychologically. News reported locally, nationally, and worldwide is about people – their successes, failures, desolation, rewards, and devastation. World hunger, drug epidemics, cultural divisiveness, immigration, and terrorism might not be in your backyard, yet these issues can, and in many cases, do affect those you love and care about the most. Although it’s been proven knowledge is golden, a growing portion of the population is tuning out – not realizing the effect it has on their view of everything from where to shop, where to live, and political choices; to where to vacation, what to see, and where to worship. It’s true, exposure to bad news has a psychologically, physiologically, and emotional effect, however help is available. Improving Lives Counseling Services provides the tools needed to identify behaviors, thoughts, and/or exposures which affect emotional competency.

Lyrics to a song from the musical Sweeney Todd say: “Careful the things you say, children will listen. Careful the things you do, children will see and learn. Children may not obey but children will listen. Children will look to you for which way to turn and learn what to be, children will listen.”

Children, adolescents, and teens are exposed to more catastrophes, disasters, tragedies, and killings than ever before. Cell phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops provide “breaking news” on websites, pop-ups, in social media, and as advertisements on educational websites and in computer games. Recent studies show children, at a very young age, “are competent, active agents of their own conceptual development.” Acknowledging their exposure and providing timely intervention reduces stress and anxiety in children and helps reduce stress and anxiety in adults.

Recent research tells us pets respond to the emotional state of owners. If this is true for pets, image the effect on children, adolescents, and teens. Research studies on adults have found: “When we are exposed to stress, the brain interprets the event as a threatening situation. The hypothalamus secretes adrenocorticotrophic releasing hormone, which stimulates the pituitary gland to produce adrenocorticotrophic hormone. This stimulates the adrenal gland, located on top of the kidneys to produce adrenaline and cortisol, increasing blood pressure and heart rate.” Imagine how a child responds to seeing or hearing a news event, or observing the above response in a parent, educator, or guardian. Researchers report an exorbitant amount of stress in children can produce serious damage to the heart, the vascular system, the immune system, and changes in some area of their developing brain.

The counselors and therapists of Improving Lives Counseling Services can determine how emotionally sensitive someone is and the effect “breaking news” has on their emotional competency. Understanding temperament in you, your partner or spouse, and your child contributes to their emotional well-being. There is a difference in “sensing” you’ve had enough and having a trained professional diagnosis the psychological effects of TV news and media.

Children don’t always discuss what they hear or see. They are not always open about conversations they have with other children or overhear in classrooms and on playgrounds. Don’t be the mother who approached her six-year-old, hoping to explain “breaking news” to be told, “I know, it popped up on your iPad and I read all about it”, or the parent who received a phone call from a fifth grader asking if she and all her friends were going to die because breaking news came across her cell phone. Live the life you and your loved ones were meant to live. Let our team of professionals provide you the tools and guidance needed to protect yourself and your family from the damaging effects of “breaking news.” You are not alone. Call us.