How to Help Your Child and Teen with Media Violence

Helpful Tips to Keep Media Violence Less of an Influence with Your Child and Teen

By M. Scott Casady, MA, LPC

To think that there is so much violence in our community where our children can be exposed is staggering.  Statistics reveal that there have been 239 school shootings since 2012. At least 138 people in total have been killed. There have been 17 in the last 45 days of this year alone. You may wonder how to even begin talking about this kind of violence with your kids, and possibly even wondering how to understand what is going on yourself. Give yourself some time to process scary events, before you talk to your kids.  Here are some tips to help you guide your family in viewing and understanding these traumatic events.

  • Limit any screen time. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) recommends children under the age of 6 have limited screen time, and this includes any media related views of school violence and shootings. They also recommend limiting media and screen time for pre-teens and teens – and NCTSN even suggests limiting your own screen time since non-stop exposure to traumatic news can be distressing to adults as well.  There has been research that support prolonged exposure can cause diagnosable PTSD in certain situations.
  • Clear up misinformation. It is easier to limit screen time and media exposure for younger children than your teens, where you have more control over what your child sees.   Do not assume that your children have not heard the news already.  Be honest, and share with them how they are safe at school. In fact, not talking about the shooting may simply magnify the threat in your child’s mind and feed into their fears. Begin by asking what they know. Gently correct any misinformation that your child has heard. Be honest with them and be prepared to honestly answer any questions that your child may have.
  • Reassure. It is important to be honest about the shooting and acknowledge what happened, it is also important to reassure your children that the adults in their lives are working on a daily basis to make things safer, even if they do not see it.
  • Keep your regular routine. Every child reacts to stress and trauma resulting from media exposure differently.  Sticking to your daily routine will help your child feel safer and build a sense of security in their world.
  • Watch for changes in their behavior. Your child may have trouble separating from you, or other caregivers, or experience noticeable changes in their eating or sleeping habits. That is normal.  It is also normal for teens to be more irritable, moody, cranky, or defiant in the weeks following a traumatic event. Generally, these changes will subside in a few weeks.  If the changes you notice are causing significant distress in your child’s academic performance or ability to function at home, please reach out to a professional – early intervention is key to the healing process.
  • Be patient. After a traumatic event, your kids might have trouble expressing themselves or telling you what they want or need. They will need you to have a little extra patience, care and love. They are watching you, and how you respond in these stressful situations.  They need you to be patient not only with them, but also with yourself.

If you would like to know more on how to handle stressful and traumatic events, please reach out to one our trauma informed clinicians.  We are here to help.  To schedule a free 15 minute consultation, click here.