SHOULD YOUR FAMILY WATCH THE NEWS?
Symptoms of CNN addiction:
- Ongoing preoccupation with worst-case possibilities
- Glancing at a smartphone every thirty seconds, even while telling the barista whether you want sugar in your coffee
- Tensing for bad news every time your phone beeps
- Jumping ten feet at the sound of a car horn
- Snapping at people for no reason
- Entering a one-sentence question into a search engine, only to still be clicking through the results an hour later
- Paying more attention to the scrolling headlines than to the program on the main screen
- Being unable to express an opinion that doesn’t sound like a direct quote from a news commentator
Not that all news is all bad for everyone, any more than the existence of alcoholism makes all wine all bad for everyone. But if you want your family to stay informed without developing the unpleasant “news addiction” symptoms above, it pays to be proactive and moderate in your news intake.
The oldest news medium—print—is still best for all but the most timely news. It can be scanned and reviewed at your own speed, comes with built-in space limits, and requires a level of conscious participation on your part. Broadcast news can be helpful for brief daily updates, but it can also have a hypnotic effect, lulling viewers into a passive state of absorption and stealing hours from your life without providing any genuine insight. If you watch television news, limit it to 30–60 minutes a day.
Social media is not recommended for news unless it links directly to proven objective sources. It has most of the disadvantages of TV news, plus it tends to be the least objective source—and it has a history of generating pointless arguments.
How to Prevent News Anxiety Syndrome
Even the best news sources tend to focus on worst-case scenarios (real and speculative) most of the time. Too much of that can leave anyone feeling that the world is an implacably evil place waiting to make you its next victim. If you have children below school age, keep your television completely off the news channels until the children develop more confidence coping with everyday problems.
For older children—and for yourself—aim at getting an hour of positive input for every hour of news. Read your Bible, read an inspirational classic, listen to soothing music, check the websites of nonprofits for positive news on what’s being accomplished in the world. And exercise your own power to make a difference: volunteer for a fundraiser, pack food boxes for the hungry, send a note of appreciation to a discouraged teacher.
Exercise your proactivity in other ways as well. Simply hearing what’s going on in the world will leave you passive and reactive, if not lost in helplessness. Doing something in the world—even influencing one tiny corner at a time—will empower you and give you good news to share with others.