Rapid Response: APA Helps Parents Give Kids a News Break
It’s not just you: Recent news stories dominating TV and social media have been depressing and graphic—and especially scary for children, says the American Psychological Association, which reintroduced resources to help kids get through the rough stretch.
Here’s hoping that September brings with it a wave of positive news stories, because August was full of just the opposite—from the suicide of comedic legend Robin Williams to the Ebola outbreak to the scenes of civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, to the gruesome, public murder of American journalist James Foley by the Islamic State militant group.
That’s a lot of tragedy for anyone to digest, and it can lead to mental health problems even in those not directly involved in the events.
“For many who have experienced trauma in their lives, those images and stories can re-traumatize them potentially, and, at the minimum, watching all of this and hearing about it can stress people out,” said Mary Alvord, Ph.D., a public education coordinator for the American Psychological Association (APA) and director of Alvord, Baker, and Associates, LLC.
Young children and teenagers, who are heavily exposed to social media, can be particularly vulnerable, Alvord said. “As adults, in our heads we can say, ‘OK, wait, that’s not what the whole world is like,’ but for children, they’re exposed to so much more than parents recognize, and the younger they are the more they don’t know how to interpret it correctly.”
To help parents and others help children cope with the recent rash of frightening news, APA raised a number of resources to prominent positions on its website. A Psychology Help Center tip sheet and a Resilience Guide for Parents and Teachers offer advice on how to manage the amount of exposure children have to tragic news events and help them adapt to trauma and stressful situations.
“It all goes back to 9/11, when we initially developed the Resilience Guide, and I’ve done many interviews on these concepts and the impact that they have on children,” Alvord said. “There are tons of situations around the world and we hear about them instantly, so having these resources allows us to react instantaneously and get what we believe is crucial information out to our members and the public to help them through a difficult time.”
That rapid-response capability is critical for any organization that may need to react to fast-moving events, Alvord said.
“These press releases and tip sheets, they weren’t just developed because of the events of the past few weeks,” she said. “It’s all about being timely.”