Expert: Kids getting news from unreliable sources, causing more stress

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Just like most adults, young people are watching and reading more news during the coronavirus pandemic. 

However, the way teenagers get their information has changed dramatically over the years, and much of what they see is inaccurate and can cause anxiety, says Liz Repking, founder of Cyber Safety Consulting.

Years ago, news was found only on TV, radio and print. But today, anyone can produce content and share it as news.

"There's absolutely no editing or censoring of what's being put out to the public. Anyone can put out whatever they want," Repking said.

"In my house we had TVs only in the family room. So if a kid wanted to find out what was going on in the world, they were in the family room watching this news coverage with the rest of the family or parts of the family. So I think there was more opportunity for parents just to inherently see what kids were consuming and they were processing it."

Repking says teens today get most of their news from unreliable sources.

"They're getting their news from the social media feeds. They're getting it from what they're seeing on Instagram, through people's stories. They get it through Snapchat on the discovery component of that app," she said.

This issue hit home for Repking, after the Parkland shooting, when her daughter told her she saw a video of kids hiding in a closet.

"I was blown away that she had literally watched a video of this tragic event and that she was then having trouble going to school because she was nervous."

She says parents don’t know what their kids are watching, who is producing the content or how their child is reacting to the information, so it's important to give them accurate information and create opportunities to talk about it.

"One thing that I do with my kids a lot is I print out articles or I email them articles and I just politely ask them: Can you read this when you get a chance?" she said.

She also suggests families watch news programs together and that parents ask kids open-ended questions.

"'How do you feel about this?' versus 'Does this make you scared?' or 'Does this make you anxious?'" she said. "They can easily say, 'No, I’m fine.' But if you ask them an open-ended question, then you have a better chance of opening up that dialogue."

And make sure kids have some tech free-time each day, she said.