Team Duncombe’s weekly online safety snippet
Helping your child cope with media coverage of traumatic events
Seeing coverage of upsetting world events in the news, online or on social media can be distressing for children, especially in today’s 24-hour news cycle. But there are things parents can do to help children make sense of them.
Here are five steps to help them cope, as well as resources for further support.
1. Give them space to talk
While it might feel natural to protect children from coverage that might distress them, shutting down conversations about those issues could feel more confusing – and lead children to seek answers from other, less reliable sources.
Offer them opportunities to talk, as often and for as long as they need, to help them understand what is happening and process how they are feeling.
2. Create a sense of calm
Children look to the adults around them for guidance on how to react emotionally. It’s important, first and foremost, to establish a sense of safety and security.
Avoid appearing anxious and frightened and reassure them that they are safe. Create a calm and measured atmosphere in which they can ask you any questions they want to.
3. Reassure them
Remind children that stories like these are in the news because they are rare: they don’t happen very often.
Equally, let them know that finding these stories upsetting is okay. Feeling sad, worried, or angry about a tragic or scary event is perfectly normal, and they certainly won’t be alone in feeling that way.
Try and keep your family routine as normal as possible, giving them a reassuringly familiar structure.
4. Keep things simple
Keep your explanations factual and age-appropriate. Younger children need brief, simple details, balanced with reassurances that their daily lives will not change.
Be honest, but try not to embellish or speculate on what might happen next, and be mindful of avoiding stereotyping any particular parties, countries or people involved.
Remember, you don’t have to have all of the answers yourself.
5. Listen to their views
Teens and older children may well be getting their own information about a story from sources that may be biased or unreliable.
Listen to them, but encourage them to question or verify what they are reading too. This will help them to keep an issue
in perspective, as well as develop critical thinking, an important online media literacy skill.
They may want to take action to support those involved – for example by writing to their MP or supporting a fundraising event. Where appropriate, this can help them feel they are making a difference, but be mindful of their ongoing or continuous exposure to the subject.
Director of Digital Learning
Published on: 24th May 2022