The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

April 30, 2013

Bomb coverage a mixed blessing Facts, discussion important but don't overdose

OTTUMWA – Even a thousand miles away, the news from Boston won’t let up. Every new utterance from “suspect number two,” every new discovery about “suspect number one’s” travels, and, of course, the “old” video showing the bombs going off at the marathon still dominate the national media, from TV to sports magazines.

It’s OK to talk about these things, even with kids, said an Ottumwa expert — just don’t overdo it.

“A lot of research shows the media can absolutely affect how people, both kids and adults, are impacted by an incident,” said Julie Thomas, a school psychologist for Great Prairie Area Education Agency.

In a way, said one southeast Iowan who has studied his share of disasters, overblown coverage or obsessive attention to the coverage can help those "terrorists" who are looking to scare us.

“It is big news, but when reporters sensationalize, it is working for this bomber by helping spread their fear,” said Jerry Calnon, emergency management coordinator for both Jefferson and Keokuk counties.

The factor that affects kids more than what is on TV, however, is how the grownups around them react.

“They take their cues from us,” said Thomas. “A lot of what goes into that is the idea that children are going to respond a lot based on what adult reactions are. So if you’re crying uncontrollably watching TV for hours on end, they notice that and it [impacts] their thoughts about the incident ... and their own safety. The thing to do is make them feel safe and answer questions they may have."

That's important because children don’t always interpret what they are seeing correctly. They may be under the impression, for example, that when Mommy or Daddy go for a run, they could be bombed.

“It’s important to answer their questions,” said Thomas talking about children around elementary school age. “I know I said it before, but children want to know they’re safe, that life is going to continue and that there’s someone who can answer their questions. We need to reassure them.”

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