As we watch the images and follow the updates of the path of Hurricane Sandy we are confronted with the fine line media must walk between providing necessary, often life-saving information and escalating anxiety and traumatic reactions. While adults, themselves, need to find a viable way to regulate their exposure to traumatic media cues, it is particularly important to consider the impact of disaster media cues on children.
Given the centrality of media in this culture the impact of media coverage of man-made or natural disasters on children can easily go unrecognized.
- What becomes the white noise or background sound of TV’s in every public place and often in many homes is a never ending reminder to a child that something frightening is about to happen- although no one seems to be talking about it.
- For pre-school and even grade school children, the combination of not fully grasping a verbal TV message while registering a tone of alarm or seeing frightening images can be very terrifying.
- Given a child’s perspective of time and place, there may be little ability to differentiate how close they are to what they are seeing.
- Children, as we found with 9/11, are often unable to determine that what they are seeing is a repeat of the same video clip and not more planes or waves or houses blown away.