Election media is bad for kids!

It really doesn’t matter which candidate you support, the current media frenzy is toxic for young children. Lately, I have spoken to elementary, middle-school age kids, and even high schoolers, who are afraid of being touched, kissed or groped without their permission, and others who are fearful that the Russians will steal the email of all Americans and find ways to harm us. Kids have expressed deep concerns to me that the United States is doomed to be destroyed by one or the other candidate — and how scary that prospect is. They have fears that should the wrong person be elected, life as we know it will be forever ruined. Many children with whom I speak are so anxious that it is impacting their sleep, ability to focus and their mood.

There has never been an election cycle like the one we are currently experiencing; one in which the 24-hour news cycle on every channel so saturated with toxic negativism from all sides. Nor has there been an election that has polarized communities, friends and even family members so significantly that deep hostility seems to always be in the air, as well as on buttons, t-shirts and bumper stickers. Children absorb this confusing and angry emotional aura as well as the divisiveness, constant degradation of opposing sides. The doom-and-gloom-speak terrifies kids of all ages.

Young children in particular don’t understand the context of politics within the ‘real world’. When they hear a pundit profess that one politician will destroy America — they believe it — and it is causes nightmares — actual ones. Constantly overhearing chatter by talking heads about election rigging — whether one believes it is happening or not — makes young people worry about what else may be ‘rigged’ in their world: Does their third grade teacher grade tests fairly or is she rigging the results?

Exposing children to this election coverage is bad for their psyche — regardless of your own, adult, political bent. It is too angry, too frightening and too traumatic for children to be listening to the political ‘news’ over and over and over again. They internalize it at a much deeper, more profound level than adults. We know that once the election is over we will return to living our lives — even if we have misgivings about who is finally elected. Kids are much more literal, developmentally not yet able to understand that there are many complex and grey issues in politics that are not nearly as dramatic or simple as the news media try to make them seem. So, please, turn off the TV and talk radio, and monitor your child’s social media and internet experiences. These are politically uneasy times for all of us, but for children they can be downright terrifying.


Dr. Susan Bartell is a nationally recognized psychologist, consultant, speaker and author in suburban New York.

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Susan Bartell

Dr. Susan Bartell is a nationally recognized psychologist, consultant, speaker and author in suburban New York.