When a traumatic event occurs in the news, images of the event are repeated on television and captured and broadcast over social media, sometimes even as the events are occurring live. It is common for people to have strong reactions to traumatic events, including feelings of shock, anger, grief, and fear.
Media plays an important part in keeping us informed about important events, but research suggests that overexposure to repeated coverage of a tragic event or disaster can have cumulative negative effects on people. People who witness ongoing media coverage may experience an increase in symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, a sense of emotional numbness, or intrusive thoughts. Twenty-four hour news coverage and social media have increased our exposure to traumatic events.
Experts suggest that that you stay informed and find out what you need to know from the news, but that you also avoid overexposure and continue with your daily life.
The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress suggests that:
- If you find that you feel anxious or stressed after watching a news program, if you feel you cannot turn off the television or participate in recreational activities, or if you have trouble sleeping, you may want to consider limiting the amount and type of media coverage that you are viewing.
- Some strategies that may be useful include limiting viewing just prior to bedtime, reading newspaper and journal articles rather than watching television, and talking to people about the event as a means of gathering information.
- If parents allow young children to watch the news at all, experts suggest that parents watch the news WITH their children and talk about what they are seeing.
- Most importantly, parents need to allow and even encourage children to ask questions. Children may have irrational fears after watching a news report because they misunderstand something. If they share those fears or ask clarifying questions, parents can help alleviate their anxiety.