Unfortunately, in today’s global media world, it is impossible to turn on the television or go onto the internet without seeing the effects of some terrorist event, civil war, disaster, or some other bloody happening currently going on in some part of the world. Whether a person appreciates access to this information or vehemently opposes it, it is here to stay; sex and death sell news.  As such, we as a public have become used to this information. For some, they have become numb to death and violence. For others, this news creates a constant sense of fear. Still others, regard it as sensationalized news and go on about their business. Whatever your viewpoint on its existence, whatever your reaction to its presence; one thing is for sure; global media reporting of these events has an impact on our society as a whole and we must address the aftermath of this technological advance. Especially, when it comes to smaller children. The young impressionable minds that do not yet have the ability to process emotion or comprehend the gravity of what is unfolding before them. It is our duty as parents to ensure that children are gradually brought into the greater world, shaping their ability to cope. Allowing children, especially below the age of ten, to have access to any and all of this terrible news can have a negative impact on their development.

On the opposite side, some might argue that simple images on a television screen cannot cause post-traumatic stress disorder. We have all heard the “snow flake’ jokes. However, each person has their own triggers and is impacted by what they see and feel differently. One person’s perceived fear is different than another’s and we cannot discount someone’s reactions; simply because we believe them to be excessive. Health care providers must treat each individual as such, and have a healthy appreciation for their perceived suffering.


The media exposure that terrorist events get shouldn’t (in the philosophical sense) be the new normal, but that is not the way of the world. The often negative news media, especially in a country like the United States, will see terrorist events played on a loop over and over along with talks from experts as well as “experts” in the field. I don’t see this pattern changing anytime soon, if ever, and so whether it is for the best or not, it is something that we have to be prepared for, a new normal. While it is important to get the news and have a free flow of information, the free press in the United States allows for “experts” to discuss topics from what seems like a seat of authority on the subject. While I am in no way advocating for any kind of censorship, it is one of the slightly negative effects of a free speech country (something which many other countries are fighting for).

There are connections between secondary exposure to traumatic events and the development of issues like PTSD. Younger children are not able to process the complex emotions that go along with a disaster (whether man-made or natural), and even being exposed to it through the media may be enough to cause them distress. This distress can follow them for a lifetime, as at a key stage in their cognitive development, they were introduced to a very negative occurrence which they couldn’t really understand. It may cause lifelong anxiety for something which directly affects only a small portion of the population. This to me makes me think of the problems of quicksand. I am in no way trying to make light of the subject, but based on cartoons I watched when I was younger (as well as jokes from many comedians now), quicksand was a real thing, and I was convinced at some point in my life it was going to get me. I had no clue how it worked or where it occurred (which was certainly not in my living room), but it worried me. If that can happen from a cartoon which I knew was fake, then exposure to real traumatic events via the media can create an even larger concern for developing minds.


News media is no different than any other service when it comes to what motivates them, money.  They get their money from advertisements.  Companies want to advertise on networks that have a high viewership.  Networks want to get and keep viewers’ attention by ‘grabbing’ them emotionally.  One of the best ways to do this is to show images and video that are right on the edge of being ‘too graphic’, because that is what we, as viewers want to see.  The problem is what was considered ‘too graphic’ 10 years ago, is now ‘normal’.  The limit is constantly moving.  I predict the ‘new normal’ as the forum question puts it, is that it will only continue to get more graphic until some significant event causes a change in this.  I have no idea what that event might be.  Another way networks get and keep viewers is to have ‘experts’ talking about the incident.  Most of the time they are taking guesses of what has happened.  When it comes to terrorist events, the ‘experts’ talk about how this can happen anywhere and at anytime.  Honestly, most people don’t know how to handle that information.  It doesn’t help that the media sensationalizes the events.  Combine that with the images they are seeing on the screen, it can cause many people to have strong emotional or psychological reactions, including PTSD.

Constant exposure to dramatic images of death/serious injuries and catastrophic damage caused by terrorism do result in significant problems during psychosocial development and functioning.  Proof of this can be found in the number of citizens from western countries that were motivated by what they were seeing on television and the internet which caused them to join ISIS.  These same images can cause the complete opposite reaction in others.  I personally have had emotional reactions to images and videos, some live, where people have been killed or seriously injured.  However, I don’t have PTSD.  That isn’t to say others who watch the same images wouldn’t get it PTSD.  How a person will be affected really all depends on an individual’s psychological development, life experiences, and their resiliency.  As a registered nurse with 24 years experience in nursing & rehabilitation facilities, my wife has seen death on a regular basis.  So when she sees images on TV, she isn’t bothered by them.  However, my youngest daughter (16) is deeply affected by them.  When you add the realization that it is a terrorist event and the possibility of it happening where you live, these images can have a profound effect on people.  For the longest time, I associated PTSD with folks who were blown up, engaged in serious fire fights, or who watched friends killed in battle.  However, I have since learned that the phrase PTSD is used much more broadly and assigned to people involved in events that I, personally, didn’t/don’t view as serious enough to cause PTSD.  I must confess that I am still on the fence on whether the phrase is used too much.

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