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More Bad News – Jennifer Oaten

More Bad News – Jennifer Oaten

I turned on the news last night, and it was full of bad news stories. There is much good going on in the world, yet this rarely receives coverage. NEWS can mean ‘Notable Events, Weather and Sport or even what’s new. I grew up thinking it meant ‘North East West and South.’ 😊 I also grew up in a time when the news was once a day in the evening for no more than one hour. I wish this were still the case. Now, when you factor in podcasts, streaming services, radio, social media and websites, and the 24-hour television news channel, it is readily accessible anywhere, anytime, with no limits on exposure. We are exposed to negative news stories from the moment we wake up in the morning to when we close our eyes at night.

The news today is increasingly emotive and visually shocking. It uses descriptive, negative language and often conveys fear, danger, excitement and risk. Constantly being bombarded with this negativity can result in negativity bias, significantly impacting our psychological state. Even if there was a positive event of the same magnitude, we feel negative events more intensely. 

Social media has changed the way we access our news. People expect to be informed immediately or even while it is happening; anyone generates imagery, mobile phone recordings are often used, and the footage is broadcasted live from the scene, with little filtering. These replays of footage provide loops of images that are repeatedly fed into our brains.  The more shocking the images, the more we seek out the news and the higher the rating or views.

A great example of this is today’s viewer’s virtual proximity to the war in Ukraine. No doubt we have all witnessed the continual graphic images of devastation, death and human emotion. Also, the devastating floods in Queensland and New South Wales destroyed homes, businesses and livestock, and how can we forget the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide coverage.

Impact of negative news

Over-consumption of the news can take a toll on your physical, emotional, and mental health and impact your thinking, behaviour, and emotions. We were all tightly connected to our news channel during the pandemic, waiting for press releases, updated statistics, restrictions, and mandates. 

Feelings of fear, sadness and anger triggered by negative news can lead to intense, continual scrolling seeking further information and detail. This is sometimes referred to as ‘doomscrolling’. There is also growing evidence that negative news can lead to increased distress, anxiety and depression. We are all very well aware of the increase in mental health issues since the pandemic.

How can parents help?

  • The most important action we can take is to educate our children about the news and frame the subject before your child begins to show signs of anxiety. Even if your child doesn’t have a smartphone, their classmates will be talking about it.
  • We need to ensure they understand what is being presented and why.
  • We need to ask them how they feel about it and let them know we can help if they have concerns.

For older teenagers active on social media:

  •  Find a balance between being informed without becoming obsessed with news
  • Consider the source:
    • Is it focussed on the truth? Does it verify facts and presents them in an accurate context.
    • Is it fair? Balanced perspectives are provided, and all sides of an issue are presented,
    • Is it independent? Reporters are not influenced by sources
    • Is it accountable? Any errors or unfair coverage are acknowledged and corrected.
  • Read at least one good news story every day.
  • Don’t have background news streaming all day on your phone or TV
  • Take a news holiday for a day
  • Unfollow news pages on social media so you don’t receive continual alerts.

For many children, the source of anxiety is not the headline itself but the behaviour and actions of adults around them. It is really important, as parents that we are mindful of this. If you find your child’s anxiety interferes with their ability to function, do not be afraid to seek help.

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