What can we do as parents:
Don't panic and get in front of it. Use this as an opportunity to have a conversation with your child about it.
So for teenagers say something like
“I’m sure you’ve heard that there is some footage from Friday going around online. “Have you seen it? Or has it come up in your social media at all?"
For younger children – go back and check the restrictions on their devices, tell them to check with you if they see something scary online.
If they haven't seen it or say no they haven't seen it, then check in with them that they
1) know it is illegal content,
2) what to do if it does come up in their social media (flag it, report and close it).
3)also, highlight that every time the video is watched the perpetrator achieves his goal a little bit more.
Most young people won't have seen it, and most will not want to see it. Be factual without sensationalising and therefore glamourising it. Be mindful that we don't perpetuate it. If we make a big thing of it, it makes it more appealing.
If they have seen it or you find out that they have seen it:
Don’t panic and don’t judge and say something out of shock like “why on earth would you do something like that” – You want to be in their corner for this and if they have seen it you want them to be able to talk to you about if they need to.
Teenagers brains are wired differently, half way between maturity and a sense of invincibility, they are wired to take risks more readily and don’t necessarily think of the consequences, especially if peers are involved. FYI, it isn't just teenagers who have watched this material either.
Remember not everyone who has seen it will be impacted in the same way.
If they have seen it talk about how they felt and listen – there is no wrong feeling around this and you need to be as neutral as possible. Most will probably reveal a mixture of curiosity and revulsion but nothing is wrong and all feelings are valid. Listening to them and how it made them feel gives us some insight into what sense they made of it and what to do in order to support them.
Do not get drawn into a conversation about the details of what they saw. Reliving it in a conversation with you isn't helpful as the brain relives it as they recall it. You also don't want to worry them about something they may not have been that worried about.
Again not all people who watched this will be traumatised, but as we cant unsee things be mindful that this may be something that crops up later on even if there isn't an obvious impact now.
Use this as a time to have a conversation about good digital citizenship and safe internet usage and also if relevant a conversation about using the internet that promotes mental health and well being. That includes choosing to consume information about Friday's attack that focuses on how NZ has come together in rejection of these ideals, shown true aroha, manaakitanga and kotahitanga.
There is an obvious link between first person shooter gaming and the live stream, and perhaps there may be a desensitising impact of this upon that material that may perversely be a protective factor if they have seen it. This is pure subjecture though on my part.
Signs that this has affected them:
Your child may become withdrawn, have difficulty sleeping, or be talking about the details over and over, they may also find watching news stories about the details of the attack stressful.
Strategies that can help:
breathing and grounding exercises,
The fear part of the brain that is there to protect us, doesn’t differentiate between a real threat and a perceived threat – so we need to give them strategies to take back control of their thoughts and emotions. We need to remind them that although that was tragic, it is over and that they are essentially safe.
Breathing - We can do this by focusing on the breathe and getting out of our head.
The purpose is to ride out the stressful feelings and restore a sense of calm. Try breathing in for four and out for four
Grounding – so again aimed at bringing them out of their own thoughts and into the present – take a deep breath and name:
or simply say to yourself what you see "I am sitting in my chair, it is green, I can see my window, the curtains are open and outside I can see the green garage door".
This brings us back to where we actually are and out of out thoughts.
Connecting with the good that has come out of this tragedy - Focus on the outpouring of love and support that has been prevalent in the wake of Fridays events. Take positive action to restore a sense of balance.
Know when to seek help
There are many available resources being set up to support people who feel affected by this.
Take away: just because your child has seen this, doesn't mean they will be traumatised and even if they are this probably wont have a life long impact. Don't panic as there are things you can do to protect our children and also support them if they have been exposed to this material. How you respond will also play a key part in how they respond.
Dr Emma x