You're probably pretty careful not to let your kids watch very violent or frightening shows on TV. But a recent study found that children actually find the news far more terrifying than anything they'd see on a blood-and-guts drama like CSI. The researchers showed nearly 600 kids ages 8 to 12 disturbing TV content -- things like war images, people shooting at each other, house fires, and plane crashes -- then told them what they were watching was either a fictional "Hollywood show" or an actual news program. "We found that the children who thought they were seeing real events had significantly higher fright responses -- they showed a greater emotional reaction -- than those who believed they were watching a fictional show," says study coauthor Brad Bushman, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and communication studies at the University of Michigan. And the effects, he adds, were lasting. The kids worried about the images they had seen -- that it might happen to them or their families -- long after the TV was turned off. "I think it's easy to underestimate how upsetting violent content can be to children -- partly because we're so used to it and also, perhaps, because we don't think young kids really understand or are paying attention to what they're seeing," says Bushman. "But it can cause a great deal of anxiety and problems like trouble sleeping." That's reason enough for us. DVR your favorite anchor and watch after the kids hit the sack, or stay up-to-date through your favorite websites.
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Why You Shouldn't Watch TV News with Your Child
Why the news can cause a lasting emotional reaction in your kids