My parents were great parents in many ways but one of the things I don’t thank them for is insisting on watching the 6 o’clock news over dinner.
Back in the day, there wasn’t much television news so I understand their need, but I also feel sorry for the little girl who watched Martin Luther King being assassinated and an endless stream of Biafran children starving, all whilst trying to eat the regulation meat and two veg!
As an adult, I am now very careful how I take in news. I don’t, for example, listen to Radio 4 in the morning. I find its tone negative and aggressive, a very unhealthy way to start the day. I think about the amount of negative news we’re bombarded with and I wonder how much our crisis in young people’s mental health is connected. These days news is not confined to 6 or 10 o’clock, it’s 24/7 – an endless flow of what’s wrong with our world. Frankly, I’m amazed that more children aren’t presenting with stress and anxiety!
We hear a lot about fake news these days but what we don’t hear much about is that this gloomy, relentlessly sad view of the world is an unrepresentative spin. Did you know, for example, that Americans are more likely to die from drowning in the bath or being stung by a hornet, wasp or bee, than at the hands of a terrorist? Or that, globally, there were 6.2 murders per 100,000 people in 2012 compared with 8.8 in 2000? Or that the proportion of people killed annually in wars is about ¼ of what it was in the 1980s and 1/16th of what it was in the early 1950s?
Most media gives us the impression that terrorism is a massive threat and that murders and war are on the increase – but this is not the case. Our life expectancy is increasing world-wide, our health is improving and our behaviour towards one another is becoming more humane.
For our own well-being and that of our children, we need to be careful what we listen to, watch and read, both on our own and in their presence. Isabelle Cole, Bristol-based counsellor, life coach and co-owner of ‘Positive News’ writes as follows:
‘The mainstream media’s negativity bias has a huge impact on us. We’re taught to eat well and exercise, but rarely think about what we consume psychologically. Yet the effects are equally detrimental… What we choose to feed our minds affects our self-esteem, our relationships with others and our viewpoint of the world at large… We don’t need to disown what’s negative in the world, but to regain the power to choose how we want to feel. If we choose to, we can focus on empowerment and change... We all internalise hundreds of messages every day – we need to be mindful about whether they help or harm us.’
I’ve found that a good place to start is a subscription to the journal ‘Positive News’, a co-operative owned by readers in 33 countries. Our school library also subscribes. Their excellent website is at: