Protect Your Toddler from Damaging Effects of Fearful Images and Sounds
“Be careful what you allow little eyes to see!”
The number of things that can frighten a young child is a hundred times greater than that of an adult. Our Junior story is about the effects of fear on a three year old. Though fear is a very real aspect of life that we all must learn to confront, becoming a slave to fear will greatly limit our ability to fully engage in the essence of life – meaningful relationships. Fear has destroyed many lives.
The advanced technological capabilities of the present age along with our culture's crumbling moral infrastructure has removed almost all former restraints on what our children see and hear. The consequences are reported daily on the news: violence, suicides, homicides, mental illness, etc.
Vigilance is a must! As the youngest students in our program listen to the old, still applicable song, “Be Careful Little Eyes What You See,” our responsibility as parents is to be careful of what we allow little eyes to see! That must include monitoring our own viewing as well. It only takes a glimpse of a frightening image for a seed to be planted in the fertile imagination of a toddler where it takes root and has the potential to become a field of noxious weeds.
Check out these sobering findings from Science Daily and Research Gate. Both articles are well worth reading in their entirety, but here are some crucial and useful bits of info that will help you protect your toddlers, and even older kids, from unnecessary torment that may last anywhere from days to a lifetime.
- Though children under the age of 5 may be too young to actually watch and understand violent movies, they are psychologically affected by the scenes they are exposed to.
- Even an excess of regular television watching is problematic. "I would not recommend more than one to two hours a day for school-aged children and no more than 30 minutes a day for children under 6." (Dr. Schechter, child psychologist)
- There have been cases of violence in the home that followed children playing violent video games. "Very young children are unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy," says Dr. Schechter.
- Ominous sounds seemed to be especially disturbing to participants in one study. The film Jaws was particularly frightening, not only because of the shark or the blood but also because of the film's suspenseful music which served to signal the approach of the shark.
- The most frequently reported type of frightening stimuli from participants (65.2%) was blood/injection/injury, exemplified by the following reference to the film Jaws:
I don't think it was the shark or the actual deaths that frightened me, it was the blood. For about two months after the movie I had nightmares about blood. The nightmares didn't always involve sharks, but always contained gross amounts of blood. To this day I remain horrified of blood...
- The younger the participants were at exposure to frightening images/sounds, the longer-lasting were the effects.
- It appears that people may never outgrow the need to clutch a pillow (or a companion) when they become frightened. Many adults have learned to recognize the types of stimuli that frighten them and can choose movies and programs carefully to avoid such content. Given that very young children may not yet know what types of stimuli frighten them most, nor do they enjoy the power to choose which media the family will view, they are in special need of protection from exposure to such scary stimuli before coping strategies are necessary.
- Very young children who acquire the impression that the world is a threatening place tend to remain easily threatened and anxious as adults.
- In this particular study, enduring fright effects caused by exposure to frightening media appear to have been quite prevalent, with 90.2% reporting serious effects including inability to sleep through the night for months and continuing avoidance of the situations portrayed in the programs.
- Of equal concern is the fright-provoking power of disturbing sounds and distorted images often added to a film to increase its power to fascinate and provoke intense fright reactions that in many cases do not exist in real life. Even a real life resemblance of a production sound (e.g., snoring that sounds like a killer's amplified breathing) may elicit an inappropriate fear response.
- The type of viewing situation preceding the most enduring fright effects involved young viewers witnessing depictions of blood and injury in programs they did not seek out themselves.
Not just coping, but conquering!
This season at Emeth, we have been repeatedly instilling in our students the truth that God is bigger than any fear. The younger ones have learned two songs – When I am Afraid I Will Trust in You and Be Careful Little Eyes What You See as well as Joshua 1:9, like the older students.
Our Heavenly Father is passionate about loving and protecting children from evil and harm.
“Above everything else, guard your heart; for it is the source of life’s consequences.” Proverbs 4:23
It is our responsibility as parents to guard the hearts of our young children and build strength into them by teaching them truth as defined by God. By doing so, we enable them to confront fear as they would other emotions – being in control of it rather than being controlled by it.
No one who loves their child wants to pollute the innocence of their heart. We must exercise extreme vigilance in protecting what they see and hear since they cannot yet discern reality from fantasy. Build the overcoming power of God's word into their minds by memorizing scripture together and train them to recite it during moments of fear.
“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.” Hebrews 13:6
“Do not be afraid...For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” Joshua 1:9
God is so aware of our tendency to be afraid, that He gave us hundreds of verses to remind us of His power and presence to conquer it. Visit this page if you need to fill up with courage! List of 365 Fear Not Bible Verses