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Exposed to Violent News...Now What?


by Shannon Peterson, Communication Specialist, Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska.

Every time my 5-year-old daughter sees the news on television, she covers her ears and yells, “Turn it off! Turn it off!” Even if it’s a weather forecast or a feature story about cuddly puppies. If we’re at a restaurant and the news is on, she must sit with her back to the television.

The news freaks her out.

It started this summer. She was visiting her grandparents in Minnesota when a man was shot by a police officer just a few miles from their home. There were protests in the Twin Cities, and non-stop news updates. The broadcast coverage ramped up even higher after five police officers were killed by a sniper in Dallas the next day.

My family was particularly tuned in because my brother – her uncle – is a law enforcement officer in the Twin Cities. It was scary, it was close. She heard the worry in their voices and the television was trumpeting bad news in the background.

For all of us, the summer overflowed with violence. Shootings and acts of terrorism were inescapable. Even the most conscientious parents can’t fully protect their children, not in today’s digital world – with smart phone alerts, social media posts and 24-7 news stations.

Because those violent images and videos can traumatize little ones, you may be wondering how to handle these difficult subjects when talking to children.

This article from Girl Scouts of the USA’s developmental psychologist, Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, Why We Need to Talk to Our Kids About Extreme Violence, can help you open up these conversations with your kids in seven easy-to-follow steps.

I’m going to try the tips with my little Girl Scout Daisy. I’m hoping she’ll feel safer, and we’ll be able to watch the weather again before winter arrives.