How to Help Children When the World Feels Scary on Screens

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TEC Center’s Director, Chip Donohue, PhD, gives tips to parents in this CBS 2 Chicago October 2, 2017, newscast on how to keep young children protected from scary images after a tragedy.

[Background TV] in a way is the second-hand smoke of the digital age.

-Chip Donohue, PhD, Director of TEC Center, Erikson Institute

Here are 5 tips from the TEC Center to help keep your children away from the scary images and sounds that are on many screens, radio broadcasts, newspapers, and magazines after a tragedy:

  1. Pause and think before you turn on a radio, television or tech device. Turn off the news and screens with frightening images and sounds when your children are present. Be mindful and be present with your children and turn off background tv, radios and streaming news services.
  2. Be mindful of media in the background at home and when you are out and about. Pay attention to what you are listening to on the car radio and be mindful of how news affects your own mood and driving skills. Kindly ask a restaurant manager to turn the channel if you are dining out and they have the news on and your children are in viewing or listening distance. Distract your children when walking past newsstands or the magazine racks in grocery stores.
  3. Check and set parental and safe search controls through restricted access on YouTube and Google SafeSearch. How-to instructions for YouTube and Google SafeSearch
  4. Keep comforting routines consistent as children often sense and know when parents are stressed or discussing something difficult. Give extra snuggles, read books together, play together and listen and talk with your child if they raise concerns about your safety and their safety as they try to make sense of the world around them and the world they hear about or see in the media.
  5. Look for the helpers. Take time to talk and read books about all of the positive people doing good things in the world to keep us safe such as firefighters, police officers, teachers, and other trusted adults. In the words of Fred Rogers,”When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”