Between Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, people these days always seem to be in the loop. Whether it’s the latest celebrity drama or a devastating world event, you can open any of the aforementioned apps and find an array of videos, news reports, and critical or celebratory takes about what just happened. For adults, this type of accessibility is great and very useful in many situations. But, according to health officials, being exposed to the news 24/7 could actually hurt kids later in life.
Specifically, according to The Telegraph, children who have seen footage and images of terrorist attacks on social media could suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, an anxiety disorder commonly known as PTSD, which is caused by witnessing a traumatizing, stressful, or frightening event.
Since the most recent wave of atrocities in the United Kingdom — like the explosion at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in May and the deadly attack on London Bridge happening just weeks later — the National Health Service in England is reportedly urging doctors to be on the lookout for symptoms that could indicate that a child is struggling to cope with these tragic incidents.
“In particular, GPs have been warned to look out for signs in children — such as shame, or a loss of self-esteem — which might not be obvious, but could indicate post-traumatic stress disorder," The Telegraph reported on Thursday.
According to the NHS, other symptoms include difficulty sleeping and concentrating. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America also notes that someone with PTSD may experience flashbacks and nightmares as well as "emotional numbness" — detaching from places, people, and any kind of reminder of the traumatic event — and feeling jumpy or easily irritated. Parents and medical professionals should be aware of these signs as symptoms may not appear until several months or even years later, according to the NHS.
This advice applies for all children, "regardless of whether they themselves were caught up in events, given that so many witnessed the atrocities on social media," according to The Telegraph.
However, this risk of PTSD doesn't necessarily mean parents need to block their kids totally from all social media. Rather, health experts advise against "repeated exposure" by, for example, always refreshing your news feed or having the news constantly on right after a traumatic event has happened.
"Children will inevitably learn about incidents through news and social media so it is best to be open with them," Dr. Sandeep Ranote, who is an NHS Consultant in child and adolescent psychiatry, told The Telegraph. "However, we would not encourage reliving the experience in the immediate aftermath by repeated exposure to news and images."
As many kids spend more than two hours per day on social media, it would be incredibly difficult to shield them from learning about and seeing images of a terrorist attack or a deadly hurricane. However, by keeping an open line of communication about their feelings and being on the look out for PTSD symptoms, parents can help their kids cope with and ultimately recover from these horrific tragedies, before things get out of control.