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Mass shootings have, understandably, received a lot of coverage in the media lately. Among the things that parents have to worry about is how their children are learning about these shootings. One way they may hear about these horrific events is by listening to the television programs that their parents are watching, or just by listening to their parents’ conversations.

Keith Klosterman, PhD, LMFT, LMHC explains, “The thing to be really careful about is that kids are sponges. So if adults are talking about topics like mass shootings in front of their kids, the kids may not be an active part of the conversation, but they’re probably listening, and they’re picking up on everything. It’s the same thing when you have the TV on. A lot of people sort of default to cable news, and I think that kids get easily saturated. I think the more information they have, sometimes the more confusing it all gets. Parents need to be really aware of how they’re responding and the potential impact of that response on their kids. Being careful with social media is really important, too.”

He notes that, while a lot of information can be absorbed at home, parents can’t completely limit what their children read and hear about: “I will see kids as young as like five or six that have access to cell phones or iPads. Parents have to be really careful, especially with younger kids, to make sure that they’re monitoring the content that’s on their devices. But when kids go to school, other kids may be talking about things. That speaks to the importance of parents proactively checking in with kids and having honest conversations about how they’re feeling. You know, oftentimes kids may not bring it up because they may not know what to do with the information, may feel weird and different, scary.” He notes that, even if the kids don’t ask their parents about these issues, that they may be thinking about scary stories in the news.

His advice: “Parents should be proactive in terms of just checking in with how things are going, especially if they notice differences in mood, in grades, in interactions with others. I think all of those things can be red flags.”