Aiding Kids Navigate Distressing News: Parental Guidance

distressing news

In today’s interconnected world, it’s almost impossible to shelter children from distressing news. From wildfires and earthquakes to social unrest and pandemics. These events can cause significant anxiety and stress in children.

The 24-hour news cycle, driven by technological advancements, has changed how we consume news. Gone are the days when families would gather around the TV for the evening news. 

Today, children have unfettered access to global news through smartphones and tablets. Exposure to constant and often traumatic news can impact children. It can lead to anxiety, fear, and other emotional distress.

As parents, it’s critical to understand how to navigate these challenging waters. We must help children understand and cope with the disturbing events they hear about in the news. 

This article aims to provide strategies and resources for parents to support their children during such times.

The Role of Technology in News Consumption

Technological advancements have revolutionized the way we consume news. Social media, online news platforms, and gaming apps often contain news snippets. It makes children more aware of world events than any generation before them.

While this increased access can be educational and help children stay informed. It also exposes them to distressing news and graphic content. A survey by Common Sense Media revealed that almost 70% of teenagers get information from social media and YouTube.

Such platforms often need more robust content filters, meaning children can stumble upon distressing content. 

Furthermore, these platforms amplify sensational and negative news. It increases the likelihood of children encountering traumatic content.

Digital literacy is vital in this era. It involves teaching children to analyze the news they consume, discern facts from misinformation, and handle distressing news. 

It’s a crucial skill that parents should foster in their children in this age of digital news consumption.

Strategies for Parents: Talking About Disaster and Distressing News

Navigating discussions about distressing news can be a delicate task. Here are some strategies parents can use:

  • Create a Safe Space for Conversation: Encourage your child to express their thoughts and feelings about the news they have consumed. Make them feel safe and confirm their emotions.
  • Provide Age-Appropriate Information: The level of detail you share should depend on your child’s age and maturity. Try to explain the situation using simple words and concepts they can understand.
  • Emphasize Positive Aspects: Highlight the actions of first responders, community members, and others working to help during disasters. It can foster a sense of hope and resilience.
  • Reassure Them About Their Safety: Children need reassurance that they are safe. Explain what measures are in place to protect them.
  • Limit News Exposure: Limit your child’s time-consuming news as a preventive measure.
distressing news

Strategies for Parents: Managing Media Consumption

Monitoring and managing your child’s media consumption can be challenging but necessary. Here’s how to do it:

  • Use Parental Controls: Use the built-in features of devices and apps to restrict access to inappropriate content.
  • Promote Reliable News Sources: Encourage your child to use trustworthy news outlets presenting balanced, factual information.
  • Teach Them About Digital Literacy: Teach your child to differentiate between credible news and misinformation.
  • Set Screen Time Limits: Establish boundaries for how much time your child can spend on digital devices.
  • Co-View and Co-Engage: Watch the news with your child. It allows you to explain confusing information and offer immediate emotional support.

As parents navigate this digital age, understanding the impact of distressing news on their children and employing strategies to mitigate it is crucial. 

By fostering open conversations, managing news consumption, and supporting their child’s mental health, parents can help their children better understand the world around them.

Supporting Mental Health After Exposure to Distressing News

After a child has been exposed to distressing news, supporting their mental health is essential. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Maintain Normalcy: Keep your child’s daily routine as stable as possible. Regularity provides a sense of safety and can help them manage stress better.
  • Encourage Expression: Allow your child to express their feelings through various mediums like drawing, journaling, or storytelling. It can help them process their emotions.
  • Stay Connected: Maintain a strong family connection. Engage in activities that promote bonding and create a sense of togetherness.
  • Promote Healthy Coping Strategies: Teach your child stress management techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness, or yoga. Regular physical activity and adequate sleep also contribute to better mental health.
  • Seek Professional Help if Needed: It might be beneficial to consult a mental health professional if your child struggles with distress.


Children’s exposure to distressing and disastrous news has become inevitable in our ever-evolving digital age. The impact of such information on their mental health is considerable, often leading to fear, anxiety, and confusion. 

The role of technology in news consumption has intensified this exposure, with children being more susceptible to encountering distressing news through various digital platforms.

But, parents are not helpless in this scenario. By employing effective strategies, they can support their children in understanding and managing their reactions to distressing news. 

It involves creating open spaces for conversation, providing age-appropriate information, and assuring them of their safety. 

Managing media consumption is another vital strategy that includes utilizing parental controls, promoting reliable news sources, teaching digital literacy, and setting screen time limits.

A writer and mother working to provide the best advice and support for navigating the internet in a safe and secure manner.