Creating Healthy News Habits | Facing History & Ourselves
Diverse group of teen college students ignoring each other looking at mobile phones checking social media
Current Event

Creating Healthy News Habits

Help students develop healthy habits for protecting their mental health while staying informed and taking action.


At a Glance

mini-lesson copy


English — US


  • Advisory
  • English & Language Arts
  • Social Studies


  • Human & Civil Rights
  • Propaganda


About This Mini-Lesson

Learning about current events helps students understand the world around them, make choices about their lives, and participate in democracy. However, the news is often overwhelming and frequent news consumption can exacerbate mental health concerns. 

The first activity in this mini-lesson helps students take stock of their news habits and consider healthy ways to learn about current events. The second activity guides students to research a contemporary issue they care about and determine one action they can take related to this issue. Each activity can be used on its own or taught in any combination best suited to your students.

This mini-lesson is designed to be adaptable. You can use the activities in sequence or choose a selection best suited to your classroom. It includes:

  • 2 activities
  • Student-facing slides
  • Recommended articles for exploring this topic

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Creating Healthy News Habits Activities

Read the following excerpt from the Self article, Stressful News Cycle Tips: 13 Ways to Protect Your Mental Health, which can also be found in the Slides for this mini-lesson:

Being a human with an internet connection in the 21st century means being exposed to one stressful news cycle after the other—we’re constantly inundated with headlines, images, and stories about the many newsworthy (often troubling) events unfolding around the globe. It’s true that staying informed about and connected to what’s happening around us can help us better understand and participate in the world we live in. But it’s no secret that being so plugged into the news can also be tough on your mental health—especially during particularly intense media coverage surrounding things like war and conflict, environmental disasters, political elections, mass violence, public health threats, and social calamities. 1

Ask your students to respond individually to the following questions, which can also be found in the Slides:

  • In the last week, how often did you read or watch the news?
  • When you read or watch the news, do you usually feel more positive, for example curious or optimistic? The same as before you read or watched the news? More negative, for example overwhelmed or pessimistic? Does it vary depending on what type of news you read or watch?
  • How often do you read just the headline or watch just the beginning of a news clip? How often do you read or watch an entire piece of news?
  • Do you think that the news you read is well researched and reliable? Why or why not?

Then, have students share their responses in pairs. Ask for some volunteers to share aspects of what they discussed in pairs with the class.

Read the following tips for healthy news habits, which can also be found in the Slides, as a class:

  1. Know when to unplug: Reading or watching the news constantly or having notifications always enabled can increase feelings of stress if you are negatively affected by the news. Consider designating times to learn about the news and times when you will avoid it and disable news notifications. 
  2. Learn more than the headline: When you do consume the news, consider reading or watching entire pieces from reliable sources. This can help you stay informed about the issues. Also, news outlets devote more coverage to crises than to upbeat stories. Just scrolling through headlines or watching the beginnings of many news clips can expose you to lots of distressing news without helping you learn deeply about the issues.
  3. Talk it out offline: People are more likely to express hurtful or simplistic views in online comments than in person, and it is also easier to mistake people’s meaning when conversations happen online. Talking through difficult news stories in person with friends and other people you trust can help you sort through your reaction to the story and decide how, if at all, you want to respond. 
  4. Find ways to act: Many news stories cover crises that happen far away from our own communities or that appear complicated and overwhelming. However, our actions do not need to solve an entire problem in order to make a difference. If you choose to act, consider finding small steps you can take, such as helping a friend or neighbor or volunteering for a local organization. 

Finally, ask your students to respond to one of the following prompts in their journals:

  • What is one news habit you have that you want to keep?
  • What is one news habit that you would like to adopt going forward?

Note: This activity can be taught in one class period or split into 20-minute sections and taught over two class periods.

Educator Matthew R. Kay writes in his book Not Light, But Fire that one way to counter feelings of disempowerment students might experience when learning about complex and difficult current issues is to locate their own “sphere of influence.” This activity helps students locate the ways in which they can make a difference related to a current event. You can read more about Kay’s perspectives in our article, Foster Student Agency While Teaching Current Events.

For this activity, students should have access to a device they can use to conduct research. You can ask students to work individually or in small groups of 2-3.

First, ask each student, or group of students, to choose one broad topic in the news that they care about. Students can look through a news source, such as NPR, the AP, or a regional newspaper for ideas. For example, students could choose a topic such as teen use of social media, gun violence, or upcoming elections.

Then, ask students to determine how this issue impacts your local community by responding to the following prompt: 

How does this issue impact you, your family, or your community?

Let your students know that they can change their topic slightly if needed to find a local connection. For example, if they initially chose “natural disasters,” they could shift to “regional heatwaves.”

Note: Pause here if you are splitting the activity over two class periods.

Now that students have their issues, ask them to research the actions that people, organizations, or governments are taking in your local community related to this issue. Students should create a list of the programs they find.

Ask students to reflect on the following prompt:

What actions from your list do you find most inspiring, and why?

Finally, ask students to choose one action that they can take related to this issue. Remind your students that even seemingly small actions, such as periodically helping a neighbor, can make a difference. Have students write their action on a piece of paper or sticky note and display the actions in your classroom.


Materials and Downloads

Resources from Other Organizations

These are the resources from external sources that we recommend using with students throughout the activities in this mini-lesson.

Additional Resources

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