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Tips for Parents to Navigate Tough Conversations About Violence Seen on Social Media

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

By Cecily Doakes

No matter how old they are, talking to your kids about tragic situations that occur across the globe is challenging. The rise of social media — and your kids’ access to it — adds another layer of difficulty when it comes to discussing crises. We feel a responsibility to be mindful of the content we post on social for our clients, and know that these channels can be a force for good and also for division.

We’ve assembled the following tips to help you facilitate meaningful conversations about violence, protests, and the pursuit of justice as seen online with your kids.

Care For Yourself

Experiencing trauma and the range of emotions that come with it is hard for everyone. Being gentle with yourself — and performing grounding exercises — can help you process information and better choose your approach to chatting with your kids. While you’re searching for more tips, consider this gentle reminder that — whether your kids have access to smartphones, social media, the internet, or not — it’s likely that they’re constantly aware of what’s going on in general. Children of all ages have an indication of the situation they’re dealing with based on the facial expressions, vocal tones, and physical movements of the adults that surround them. To help you stay strong, check your social media while your kiddos are out of the room so that you may endure your sense-making process alone. Getting yourself to a calmer head-space can help you create a safe environment that fosters support — especially while you discuss their online lives with your children.

Balance Their Screen Time

Particularly for preschool to elementary school-level students, certain online images — like fires and people in scary masks — can be traumatizing. To guide them through difficult days that are widely discussed online, opt to monitor the information that your kiddos have access to. You’ll find several apps that help you filter the content that your kids explore, and limit the hours in which they do the most internet surfing. One of the things you can do to strike a balance between living in the real and digital world is to unplug from every screen and reconnect with each other. Ask questions, remind each other to be honest, and spend time enjoying your favorite activities — like going for a walk or baking cookies. Unplugging doesn’t mean avoiding the problem at hand. Think of it more as an opportunity to clear your heads so you can handle and talk about tough situations with an open mind.

Craft an Age-Appropriate Conversation

When speaking with tweens, teens, and young adults, consider the effect social media has on their mental health in general. Due to the instant spread of information via the internet, it’s possible they’ve already seen footage of the situation you’re preparing to talk to them about — and that it’s made its mark. While this is a tough thought to digest, it’s a gentle place to begin your conversation. Ask what they’ve seen, what they know, and how they feel about the violent content they’ve seen online. If your older children don’t feel inclined to discuss the most recent act of violence, avoid pressuring them to respond. It’s okay for them to need time and space to filter through their complicated mix of emotions. To help your teens cope with discouraging current events, suggest they spend time having socially interactive fun with their friends via FaceTime and Zoom. While discussing crime, violence, and political and social unrest can help them develop a worldly perspective — it’s summertime and kids need a little fun right now! Help them find everything from virtual vacations to summer movie marathons to maintain a positive outlook on the world when things feel grim.

As the world keeps turning, our reliance on technology, social media, and the transference of information via the internet isn’t diminishing. While we have more good days than bad, these tips for talking to your kids about the violence chronicled on social media can help avoid a negative impact on their relationship with their online lives. From the family to yours — be kind and stay safe. Copywriter Cecily Doakes is a native of Denver, Colorado who loves writing, travel, and wine. She’s proud to be a part of a team that values social consciousness and responsibility — and seeks the opportunity to help each other through difficult times via social media. She believes that love prevails and — together — we’ll get through this.



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