Explaining violent media to children

Explaining shootings to children

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Tragedies, like the one in Dallas, can keep us glued to our TV's for hours.  And if your children are in the home, they too may be seeing much more than they can possibly understand or even cope with at the end of the day.

There is no question too much exposure to this kind of coverage cannot be good for their very impressionable minds.

It's not just about turning off the TV.  It's much more about controlling how much the child sees, and taking the time to put some perspective on how they interpret what they see.

"The news really is a wonderful thing but its 30 minutes, 60 minutes of all the worst things happening in your city and if a child doesn't have an explanation as to what the news really is, it's a very small part of what's going on and their perception could be everything outside my front door is bad," said Ben Spitalnick, a Savannah pediatrician.

From Baton Rouge to Minnesota, Dallas and right here in Georgia the violence this week has almost been unbearable.  And if you feel that way, imagine how your kids are feeling.

Spitalnick says children's TV time should be limited to two hours a day. And limiting their exposure to violence whether it's the news or cartoons and supervising their shows will improve their behavior.

"One statistic shows that if children watch three to four hours of non-educational TV viewing a day they'll have witnessed 6-8,000 murders by the time they're done with elementary school," Spitalnick said.

And it's not about hiding what's going on.

"Sit with their child, explain what happened and explain that what their watching on TV is not a lot of violence going on. It's the same thing being shown over and over and over again," said Spitalnick.

But also showing them there is good in this world as well.

I talked with some folks who were out with their kids and grandkids Friday. They both agree, the best medicine for bad news, is simply spending quality time with them.

"Spend more time with them, and engage myself with them," said Alvin Cohen, Savannah grandparent.

"Pay attention to your kids, get more involved in their lives, somewhat try to keep them off of social media and tell them right from wrong at a very early age," said Derrick Shavers.

"It's shown that kids that watch too much violence TV can become aggressive in their own behavior, desensitized to violence, have nightmares and have a fear of being harm."

Aside from the real possibility of desensitizing your children to violence, unhealthy amounts of news coverage or violent television can cause aggressive behavior. You may also see your child experiencing more frequent nightmares or even a fear of going outside.  And while these conditions are likely not permanent, that ounce of prevention you heard from Dr. Spitalnick can prevent the issues altogether.

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