195 Media Exposure in Children

Based on research by Pfefferbaum, Betty, Seale, T. W., Brandt, E. N., Pfefferbaum, R. L., Doughty, D. E., & Rainwater, S. M. (2003) by Mara Rowcliffe, BS.

Does terrorism in the news harm our children?

As adults are attracted to news coverage about tragic events, so are children. While they may not be directly attempting to watch or listen, they often observe and overhear. Older children may get information regarding these events from the Internet or social media sites. To understand the impact of news coverage on children, researchers evaluated children’s media exposure following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Two years after the bombing, researchers administered a survey to 88 sixth grade students in a community 100 miles from Oklahoma City. They assessed children’s emotional reactions to media coverage and their posttraumatic stress. Results revealed that print media exposure was more strongly associated with enduring posttraumatic stress than broadcast media exposure. Having a friend who knew someone impacted, and reacting emotionally to media coverage also predicted ongoing posttraumatic stress.

Since these results suggest that children may have lingering reactions to publicized terrorist incidents, monitor their news coverage and limit their exposure. Talk to them about what they observed or read. Explain, correct any misunderstandings and reassure them to lessen the impact.


Pfefferbaum, B., Seale, T. W., Brandt, E. N., Pfefferbaum, R. L., Doughty, D. E., & Rainwater, S. M. (2003). Media exposure in children one hundred miles from a terrorist bombing. Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, 15(1), 1-8.

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