"A lot of people think it's OK to watch disturbing news on TV with a baby, and that it's only when children get older that the news can upset or worry them. However, babies are much more attuned to what's going on around them than we often realize. So if the TV news is on, and you get upset, your child will pick up on your feelings."
Diane Levin, Ph.D.
Professor of Education,Wheelock College. Co-Author, Teaching Young Children in Violent Times
Babies and toddlers should not be exposed to disturbing news. Even though they may not understand the words, they will react to visual and audio stimulation. They will also pick up on your feelings about what you see on the news, and react to your emotional state.
Babies and toddlers may be drawn to the sounds and images on the news even if the TV is on in the background. If toddlers see the news, they make think the events on TV are happening to them.
If babies and toddlers sense that you are upset by the news, they may become upset as well. You may notice them get fussier, have lengthy crying bouts and even resist being comforted. They might have a loss of or big increase in appetite, and regress in their toileting or other developmental milestones.
Don't expose children under 2 to TV news. Babies will not understand images on TV but will be aware of your reactions.
Loud noises (such as gun shots on the news, in violent TV dramas, and real life), big flashes, angry voices or angry-looking people on TV may startle or scare toddlers.
"Leave the room with your toddler or turn off the TV if images could be potentially upsetting to either of you," recommends Susanna Neumann, Ph.D.
Use soothing tones when you talk, and give more cuddling and hugs — particularly if your baby seems affected by your feelings. Be patient if your child shows changes in patterns of eating, sleeping or toileting.