Spare the little children

Spare the little children
Dealing with the pain: Noor Herdawaty with eight-year-old son Nifael Mirza Narulbashah at an MH17 vigil. She believes in exposing her children to loss.

Is Barbie hurt, Mummy? Can we take her to the doctor?"

Sales manager Sarah Mohammed says her three-year-old daughter has bombarded her non-stop with questions since she saw the picture of a mangled Barbie doll at the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash site in Ukraine in the newspaper.

"I don't know how to answer. I wish I had not left the newspaper lying around in the house. And I was really careful to keep the news away from her!"

One thing Sarah is thankful for is that her daughter is too young to catch the news from other sources.

The wide reach of and easy access to the media means that the information onslaught has been difficult to escape, and footage of victims' personal belongings and wreckage of the plane strewn across the fields had been shown in a non-ending loop on the television.

Although mainstream media has been careful not to show graphic images of the crash, they are easily available online, specifically on Facebook and Twitter. Combined with the current spotlight on the atrocities of the Gaza conflict, the graphic coverage can have an impact on viewers, say experts.

According to a study by the University of California, Irvine, prolonged exposure to violent images of traumatic events can trigger a strong emotional response in many, and even stress in the more vulnerable.

Conducted in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing last year, the study, which surveyed some 4,675 adults across the United States, showed that those exposed to more than six hours of daily media coverage of the bombing were more likely to experience symptoms of acute stress than those directly affected by the incident.

"When you repeatedly see images of a person with gruesome injuries after an event is over, it's like the event continues and has its own presence in your life," E. Alison Holman, associate professor of nursing science at UC Irvine and the study's lead author explains on the university's website.

"Prolonged media exposure can turn what was an acute experience into a chronic form of stress.… Looking at these images over and over again is not productive and may be harmful."<div class="embed">

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