The influence of sources in violent news on fright and worry responses of children in the Netherlands

Mariska Kleemans*, Lisa T. Janssen, Doeschka J. Anschütz, Moniek Buijzen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Children display fright and worry responses to violent news. Including involved children, non-involved children or experts as sources in children’s news is assumed to reduce these negative effects. However, exemplification theory gives reason to question whether particularly the use of involved children indeed has a reassuring effect. To test this, an experiment was conducted among 237 children (8–13 y/o). They were randomly exposed to a news video containing (1) involved children as source, (2) non-involved children, or (3) adult experts. Fright and worry responses were measured both before and after exposure. Results showed that the inclusion of involved children as a source significantly increased worry responses, but did not affect fright responses. Non-involved child sources significantly reduced fright and worry responses. Expert sources reduced children’s fright responses, but did not change feelings of worry. These insights can inform news producers on how to alleviate the effects of covering violent events in news. IMPACT SUMMARY (a) Prior State of Knowledge Violent content in news induces negative responses in children. Producers of children’s news try to alleviate these effects by using involved children, non-involved children, or adult experts as sources in violent news stories. (b) Novel Contributions This study provides first empirical insights into the effects of involved children, non-involved children, and adult experts as sources in violent news stories on children’s fear and worry responses. It shows how to alleviate children’s negative emotional responses to news. (c) Practical Implications News producers are encouraged to use non-involved children or adult experts when presenting violent news to children. They should be careful with the inclusion of involved children as sources in news stories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-143
JournalJournal of Children and Media
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2 Jun 2021

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