In our sessions in schools today we were grateful when talking to pupils about the news on social media last night – that most of their feeds were dominated with their usual videos and chat around snapchat name changes (which kicked in last night too). However, it is obvious that news reports, related opinions, direct video footage and disinformation are all escalating online today. Here are 5 ways in which you can support your child with the impact of all of these events on their digital lives. 1. Don’t assume that what your children are seeing online is what you are seeing online. What children and adults see on social media is often vastly different. Ask them directly about what they are seeing. 2. Support them if they go down rabbit holes. Watching one video related to the current news the social media algorithms will quickly send more of that content their way. Support them to click not interested/don’t show again rather than disliking videos (which algorithms interpret as engagement). Look out for any increasing anxiety in their behaviour. You know your child better than anyone.
3. If they are becoming anxious as a result of what they are seeing, help them to significantly reduce or adapt their media use – take breaks, do more things with them offline and/or help them to reduce their time on any apps where they see content that unsettles them. Encourage time on content that makes them feel happy and safe and calm (e.g. watching movies etc). Encourage them to keep speaking to their friends using other means. 4. It is always a positive step to make sure that you talk about events in the news so that they are not restricted to what they see online for their opinions and they know the supportive and balanced opinions of those who love them. Ask them what they think about developments and how they are feeling. 5. Reassure them they are not alone. If they are feeling anxious about the state of the world right now, they are not alone. Acknowledging with them that any stress or helplessness they are feeling right now is normal is very important. These events remind us how much is outside of our control and can impact our thoughts and behaviour in subtle ways. Our children may feel anxiety, fear, frustration or even numbness to those around them when anxious. They may have difficulty sleeping or feel more tired or exhausted. Keep encouraging them to leave their phone/tablet/laptop out of their bedroom and avoid scrolling through feeds before bed. Try encouraging them to read a book or listen to music instead. Psychiatrist Sandra de Monte said this morning “You can’t self-care your way out of worrying about a war. But we can change how we react to circumstances beyond our control. Recognising what we are not able to change, and what we have to adapt to, can help to limit our stress response."