Helping young people cope with bad world news


It can be hard not be affected by bad news when it breaks. In this age of 24hr news cycles and social media, we can be bombarded with it, every time we turn on the TV, or log in to our devices or social media accounts. Reach Out Australia has put together some tips on how to help your teen cope with current affairs in a healthy way, and what you can do to help if you think it's starting to get them down. 

How young people might respond to bad world news

Between schooling and their social life, your young person probably spends a lot of time online. This means that they can easily be exposed to distressing news content about natural disasters, pandemics, war, terrorism, death and other events simply by scrolling through their social media apps. Our body responds to negative news by releasing stress hormones which may result in your young person feeling:   

  • anxious and worried    
  • sad and depressed   
  • scared    
  • helpless   
  • confused    
  • angry

    When combined with the usual rollercoaster that is adolescence, some young people may start to feel overwhelmed.

How to help your young person cope with bad world news 

Open the conversation

If you feel that something isn't quite right with your young person, the first step is to try to figure out what's going on.

You can try asking them how things are going with their friends, hobbies, and schooling. Try to be non-judgemental and offer to listen if they have something on their mind. 

For more tips on how to figure out what's up with your teen go to

Acknowledge their feelings

Whatever your young person is feeling, they need to know that it's okay to feel the way they do. By acknowledging that they may be feeling stressed, down or helpless, young people will feel reassured that you care about them and validates their concerns and how they feel. It's important not to dismiss their worries as this can have a negative impact on their wellbeing, and may make them less likely to come to you for help in the future. 

Switch off together

Ask your young person if they'd like to take a break from the news by switching off and doing something that they enjoy like listening to music, a hobby, or self-care activity. Why not offer to take a break with them and go for a walk, play a game, prepare a meal, or some​ other activity you both enjoy. In the long term, you may consider agreeing on some ground rules around news. For example. 

  • Only check the news at one or two set times per day.
  • No news or social media during family times, such as at the dinner table.
  • Make sure that everyone spends at least 15 minutes a day on self-care or an activity they enjoy.

    Have 'no news' time with your teen

    Consider if it would be useful for your young person to have some "no news" time - designated time when they don't talk or think about what's happening in world news or current affairs. This could be something you do together. This may involve the young person letting people that they're hanging out with, such as friends and other family, that they don't want to talk about the news. 

Learn more about world news together

Discuss world news together

There are many benefits for young people in being involved in discussions and debates about current events and news stories. By engaging in discussions with them, you promote an active interest in their community and in topical issues. It's fosters critical thinking and allows them to see different perspectives and supports them in developing their own way of seeing things. 

These discussions can also be an excellent opportunity to explore what a 'better' world might look like and how this could be achieved. Providing opportunities to discuss these events is important for helping young people making sense of what's happening and assists them to process their thoughts and feelings. 

Research the topic together

We know that social media isn't always the most reliable source of information. Researching with your young person can help them sift through the information to find reliable objective facts. It's also an opportunity to discuss media and social media and how these can often be biased, misrepresent information, and help them identify trusted sources. This may assist them in putting events into perspective.

Before beginning, agree to limit the time spent on this research to avoid them doom scrolling and becoming overwhelmed. Consider choosing an activity that you both enjoy, to do afterwards to help relax.

What can young people do to help with world issues?

Help your young person accept their level of control

It's normal to feel anxious about things that we can't control. Anxiety is a natural response that exists to help us respond to threats in our environment but when those things are out of our control, this can cause us to feel overwhelmed. Despite this, there are usually some things that people can do to help a situation. Helping your young person identify and understand how much influence they have over something, can be an important step in reducing their stress. This can also help them identify the things they do have control over, and in doing so, figure out what positive things they can do to help. Doing positive things for others and the community can help increase young peoples' sense of control and improve their wellbeing. It is however, important for us all to understand how we can best contribute to a cause while also learning to accept our limitations.

Advocate or volunteer

If your teen wants to take action to help, suggest that they could:

• sign an online petition

• share something relevant (from a reliable source) on social media

• make a donation, if they're able to

• attend a rally

• volunteer (see opportunities on SEEK Volunteer).


Using these tips, you can help foster your young person's resilience and ability to cope with bad world news and make them better equipped to cope, both now and into the future.


Karen – School Based Youth Health Nurse

Available Monday and Friday in the Wellbeing Hub

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Last reviewed 28 March 2022
Last updated 28 March 2022