Dayna Sharp, LCSW
There’s been a lot of recent talk on Social media about scary things targeted at children on YouTube. You probably have heard them: suicide challenges and instructions on how to successfully complete suicide. Although it seems that there hasnt been any real evidence of a “suicide challenge”, a seemingly Isolated incident of someone splicing a suicide directive —these messages and the fears around them are getting a lot of attention.
Whether or not these things are real, or if hey are isolated or not, they tap into a very real fear for parents and kids alike: there are some people in the world who aren’t safe, parents can’t always protect kids from every danger, and our society often doesnt offer a safety net for kids and families. When you think about raising kids, living your life “with your heart walking around outside of your body”, as author Elizabeth Stone describes it, facing the fact that we can’t completely control life around us can be terrifying.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” ( kind of )
A little bit of fear is helpful—it can motivate us to do the things we can to protect ourselves, our kids, and contr to making the world a safer place. But a lot of fear can leave us stuck in the problem. The attention we give to these types of fear-Based messages can also ironically give them even more attention, increasing the chances that even more kids will see these messages on the news or hear about them in the hallways at school or in the homes of friend’s parents.
What we can do
Acknowledge the fear. It’s a normal feeling to have in response to these kinds of events.
Practice safety with social media. Set time limits. Make sure you know what your kids are watching. Use a child monitoring app for additional safety.
Teach your kids internet safety. Most people in the world are safe. Some are not. The internet is a place where people are strangers, so we can’t know if they are safe or not. Never chat with strangers online—even if you think they are your age or you think you know them from online games. Never give out private information.
Let your kids know they can talk to you. If your children know this, and believe that you will remain grounded, they are more likely to come to you when they see something scary or upsetting online. When kids come to you, you are better able to protect them. If kids don’t believe they can confide in their caregivers, they not share what they see and that can lead to problems.
Protect you relationship with your kids. Spend quality time with them. Laugh with them, express interest in their world, know their friends. You may not be able to control the world, but if you can maintain a strong relationship with your child, you have your best chance of helping them navigate safely through it.
The risks associated with social media are very real, but there are also very real things that we can do to protect our kids This can be hard to remember when our fear gets involved. If you can create space between yourself your family and the fear you can stay focused and are better able to do the things you need in order to keep your family safe. Keep calm and parent on!