If Linda Ellerbee has her way, news coverage of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks will not only teach young Americans more about the attacks, it will also provide kids with the opportunity to get the facts, ask questions and express their fears. Ellerbee, an award-winning journalist, is the host of the Nickelodeon channel's "Nick News with Linda Ellerbee." Nickelodeon and APA have teamed up to provide resources for adults to help children who may struggle with the renewed focus on the 9/11 tragedy.
"Nick News" is a 30-minute current events program created for 8-to-14-year-olds. Its 9/11 anniversary segment, "What Happened? The Story of September 11, 2001," broadcast Sept. 1, features young adults talking about their 9/11 experiences and pre-teens asking questions about what happened that day. "After talking to kids about 9/11, we knew we needed to do a show to give them an accurate portrayal of what happened and why, and some perspective on the events," Ellerbee says.
"I was a child of the Cold War," she says. "I lived terrified that the Russians were going to drop the bomb. We even practiced for it in school. No one ever talked to me about those fears. I simply had to carry them around."
If the patterns seen after the 9/11 attacks repeat themselves, most children will take the renewed focus in stride. But for some, it may create anxieties. The APA/Nick News materials are designed to supplement the broadcast and provide parents and other caregivers with information and tips on what adults can do to help children who have a worried reaction to the media coverage.
"For most children across the U.S., 9/11 wasn't particularly upsetting in the long term," says trauma researcher Roxane Cohen Silver, PhD, a professor in the department of psychology and social behavior at the University of California–Irvine. "Except for those children who were directly exposed to the event, or lost a loved one, the effects were fairly transient."
Still, some kids may have questions about the 9/11 coverage or experience stress as a result, according to Robin Gurwitch, PhD, of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement. Gurwitch, who has worked extensively with APA and the American Red Cross on information materials to assist parents and other caregivers help children with psychological issues after a traumatic event, authored the "Nick News" program's supplemental materials.
"Most kids are resilient," says Gurwitch. "That's the good news. But, for those kids who have questions or concerns spurred by the coverage of the anniversary, support from a parent or other family member or caregiver will be important."
According to Gurwitch, children who had a traumatic response to the events in 2001 and those who have a family member serving in the military overseas are at somewhat higher risk for a traumatic response to the anniversary coverage. "For these kids, it will be important for parents and other caregivers to listen for these concerns and answer questions honestly and in an age-appropriate way," Gurwitch advises.
"What Happened? The Story of September 11, 2001" is slated to air Thursday, Sept. 1, at 9 p.m. Following its premiere, will be available on iTunes as a free podcast and in Nickelodeon's video-on-demand offerings for the month of September.
The APA/Nick News materials for parents, caregivers and educators are accessible on the Web at APA, The Big Help—Nick's prosocial online hub—and Parents Connect, the network's online resource for parenting advice and community.