Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fear Among Today's Youth

I couldn't help but see the irony of CNN running this story about this study. The study examined the impact various developments (like global events, television and media exposure) have on the fears of children and adolescents. Students from Grade 2 through 12 were asked questions about their common fears. The fears and rank order were:

"being raped” (1st), “terrorist attacks” (11th), “having to fight in a war” (13th), “drive-by shootings” (15th), “shootings” (17th), “tornadoes/hurricanes” (18th), “my getting pregnant or getting my girlfriend pregnant” (19th), and “drowning/swimming in deep water” (20th). Further analysis revealed that of the remaining 12 contemporary fear items endorsed as most common fears in this study, 11 ranked in the top one half (i.e., “going to jail” was 21st; “car wreck” was 25th; “carrying guns, knives, and weapons” was 28th; “cults/satanic worship/voodoo” was 34th; “violence near my home” was 35th; “crime” was 37th; “being poor” was 38th;“gangs” was 39th; “robberies” was 40th; and “my parents losing their jobs” was 41st).

A few excerpts from the CNN story:

By 8 years old, children know the difference between fantasy and reality, so they are more likely to be frightened by televised news coverage of events such as kidnappings, murders and terrorism, said Joanne Cantor, professor of at University of Wisconsin-Madison, who was not involved with the study. Before age 8, they express fears of fictional scenarios and characters but also worry about hurricanes and drowning, she said.

....Many experts said parents should limit their elementary-school-age children's exposure to local news to reduce anxiety about tragic events depicted on television.

Young children do not understand that when a news clip about an event such as a kidnapping is repeated, it is not a separate instance of a kidnapping, Huebner said.

Now I said it is ironic that CNN reports on this because they are notorious for playing the "fear" card to the tilt (just see this for a sample of its worst offender). Consider the two top stories on CNN's "most popular" page: #1 is Gang triggerman honored in death; #2 Transgender slaying trial begins. With headlines like this no wonder "Panic!" Governance continues to flourish.