Children are vulnerable and gullible. At an early age, they don’t know what’s real and what’s not. In their heads, fantasy and reality and puzzled together, and what they perceive can affect their behavior. During this stage, their brains are not developed enough to comprehend complex images, such as the destruction of buildings and fireballs. Media, especially with the presence of the internet, is difficult to filter.
They can be scared of the kids’ dentist because they saw their tools used to kill someone on TV. They can be scared of ghosts because adults said it would snatch them away. Maybe they’re afraid of animals because of a traumatic event.
For adults, it’s their responsibility to keep children feel safe and filter the content they consume. It’s better to shield them early to prevent the manifestation of their effects as they grow older.
What Happens When Children are Scared
Violence in media has a desensitizing effect on kids. A study found that watching too much TV shows that depict violence is a contributing factor to aggressiveness in teenage years. Consequently, watching too many of these makes the person accustomed to seeing violence that it no longer triggers an adverse reaction.
Trust is also essential for a child. This is why they seek for their parents’ or guardian’s comfort and feel safe when they’re around. Exposure to violence in media can harm this trust, especially in the people they’re going to meet in the future.
Children below five years old still can’t identify reality from fantasy. So when they see speculative fiction on TV, for example, they would recognize it as something that could happen in the real world. Therefore, it’s possible to happen to them.
At 7, children are scared of “spooky fantasy,” like those painted as villains in animated shows and movies. For these children, these unusually built, talking creatures in the screen feels real–and so does the fear that manifests from them.
By 8 to 12 years old, their fears become more realistic, focusing more on what they can or cannot experience. It can be falling off from a height, drowning, thunderstorms, etc.
It’s genuinely horrifying to sit there, mouth open, while someone you hardly ever know pokes things into your teeth. However, scaring children of their dentists will have counterproductive effects.
When the day comes that they need dental help, there’s a possibility that they would much rather endure the pain that have it checked. This will affect parents and guardians, too, because they will have to deal with a crying child. Everyone knows that’s not a very pleasant situation.
Being scared of ghosts is something people bear until adulthood. It’s understandable, especially with the plethora of easily accessible supernatural content. There are also endless places where ghosts can be found: in the shadows, in plain sight, in the morning, in the middle of a mall, etc.
This fear can be disabling at times. For example, a person needs to pee in the middle of the night. It’s dark, and they live alone. Instead of peeing, they hold it in until the morning. A lot can go wrong, from wetting the bed to the problems in the internal organs.
“Jaws” changed the way people perceive sharks. Because of a series of movies, sharks have become villains. The sad part is that it was all a misrepresentation. This is how perceived fear becomes a true fear spread among children and adults alike.
For children, it’s not only sharks that are scary but also everything else. Whether this fear is rooted in a real-life experience or what they see in media, it can lead them to dislike animals in the future–even cute ones–and animals are everywhere.
What Can Adults Do for Scared Kids?
Don’t use fear as a tool for discipline. Avoid the common tactic of “If you don’t behave, the boogeyman will come and get you.” It can traumatize the child and create images in their head that they might perceive as true.
Be there for the child. Parental guidance is essential while watching TV. Adults can cover their eyes when a scary part comes because “It’s not real” might not be doing as good a job as adults think.
Comfort them. They feel safe in the arms of the people they trust, so adults are their protection. Giving them this sense of safety can help appease their minds.
Children are as innocent as a human can get, so protecting them should be a top priority. As much as possible, adults should provide parental guidance every time the child watches something on TV or the internet.