I was thinking the other day about how different kids' exposure to violence is now compared to when I was little. I graduated from high school in 2000. There were a few school shootings when I was in high school but the only one I heard of during that time was Columbine. Thinking back, there are only a few other big instances of violence I really remember hearing about (Oklahoma bombing being a big one because we happened to have a half day of school that day so we heard about it on the radio). The internet has changed our access to news so we hear about things more quickly but mass shootings and acts of terrorism have also increased dramatically. I was going to include a link to show this to be true but I couldn't decide on which article as many include varying politics but if you google incident of mass shootings from 1990s compared to 2010s you will find a numerous articles. I'm not writing to talk about why this is or what should be done to stop it. My concern is what the effect is having on the children, adolescents, and teens growing up with this violence as the norm. Just me writing "as the norm" is the problem. My children are growing up with horrible violence as the norm. Going to the movies, a concert, even church are not safe. I realize that there are people in the world that have never lived in a safe, comfortable country. That saddens me. But America is a democratic, free country where this should not occur. But it is. So how is it effecting our kids?
This is just my opinion, but I feel it is creating a generation that will have less empathy. As each horrible tragedy occurs, youth (and probably many adults) start to be less shocked, less outraged, less saddened. They are becoming desensitized to these events. They hear about the events or read bits and pieces of them but do not really connect to them. It is just another story.
We have to fight this. I don't want our youth to walk around scared in our world but I do want them to be concerned about what is going on in the world. When tragedy strikes, talk with your kids about ways your family can help. You can donate money, goods, food, etc to a cause. Write a letter to a survivor. Organize a bake sale or a lemonade stand. Empower our children to help those they do not know. This not only helps them connect with those effected by the tragedies but it teaches them to be kind which I teach my children is the most important thing to be.
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.