As news spreads about the horrific terrorist attack in New Zealand, the list and level of tragedies unfolding feel never-ending. There are simply no words for what happened in Christchurch, New Zealand. And while we attempt to process how to turn our anger over tragedies such as this into action, I'm thankful for the many resources available as we try to explain this stuff to our kids. We can't ignore the conversation about violence—because it keeps happening.
With violence and hatred, sadness and shock can quickly turn to outrage and, as in this case, spur questions like, how are we going to make the Internet a safer place? How do we talk with our children about tragedies in age-appropriate ways? How do we prevent gun violence from happening again?
While I don’t have all the answers, I hope you’ll join me in trying to turn energy into ACTION.
Thursday night, news of the New Zealand shooting was delivered first to me via social media. An intended “quick check” of my newsfeed after the kids’ were sleeping soundly suddenly turned into something that continues to weigh heavily on my mind.
As a proud supporter of the gun violence prevention movement here in the United States, my heart immediately sank. Every day, nearly 100 Americans are shot and killed, and hundreds more are wounded. And no matter where tragedies take place around the world, our hearts go out to those whose loved ones were shot and killed and whose lives were cut short or taken by gun violence.
When hatred comes armed, it is deadly. We stand with New Zealand, unified against hate in all its forms. — Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
It wasn’t until Friday morning that a fellow member of an online digital parenting group brought up an additional layer to this already horrifying tragedy. Their post read:
The above post was originally shared in a Closed Facebook Group. The user has given permission to share with others.
The sadness and shock of the situation, one that we feel all too often due to violence and hatred, turned to outrage as the Trepid Tech Mom in me boiled over. How could this awful tragedy be livestreamed? How could it take so long to take down—especially since these social media platforms are so quick to censor seemingly harmless content? How WILL we demand better of these platforms?
Yes, social platforms have an enormous job to monitor user content. But it’s still their responsibility. They must do better. And I’m convinced they can do better.
Rant is coming as I echo this parent’s concerns.
The other day, I commented on a Facebook thread (that discussed digital parenting) with a link to Trepid Tech Mom content. Seemed appropriate to me but within moments my comment was removed because it violated Facebook’s policy of self-promotion. In the post above, the parents’s livestream of their child’s high school basketball game was censored within minutes because Facebook detected a song and claimed copyright infringement. Okay. If these are things Facebook wants to “flag” and remove, that’s fine. But if they can detect “self-promotion” and “copyright infringements” within moments, it seems a tough argument they can’t detect gunfire and put a stop to it right away.
Back to the Facebook post pictured above.
There are many statements made in the above Facebook post, some of which have since evolved. For example, Reddit has apparently banned the video since this post. But it’s too little too late. Video of this horrific tragedy has been downloaded countless times. The damage has been done. The Internet will never be free of this footage. The social media giants have failed—again. And there’s plenty of conversation to prove it:
Hours after the attack, however, copies of the gruesome video continued to appear on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, raising new questions about the companies' ability to manage harmful content on their platforms.
In fact, the entire attack seemed orchestrated for the social media age. Before it took place, a post on the anonymous message board 8chan -- a particularly lawless forum that often features racist and extremist posts -- seemed to preview the horror. It linked out to an 87-page manifesto filled with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim ideas, and directed users to a Facebook page that hosted the live stream. Posts on Twitter also appeared to herald the attack.
"This is one of the dark sides of social media, and something that's almost impossible for the companies to do anything about. They're not going to be able to block this material in real time," said Paul Barrett, deputy director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights. "It's a real conundrum about the dangers that social media can facilitate."
"It is not just a question about broadcasting a massacre live. The social media platforms raced to close that down and there is not much they can do about it being shared because of the nature of the platform, but the bigger question is the stuff that goes before it," said Dr. Ciaran Gillespie, a political scientist from Surrey University.
So what do we do with all of this anger and energy? We do our best to honor with action.
We do our best to make the Internet a safer place and help ensure our children don’t witness the New Zealand terrorist attack before we, adults, even heard about it as one parent experienced. We do our best to talk with children about tragedies in age-appropriate ways. We do our best to take care of ourselves so that we can continue to take care of our families. We do our best to spread kindness. We do our best to prevent gun violence in all its forms.
ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
May we demand social platforms “do better” when it comes to keeping fans and followers—our children and families—safe online and off and advocate for kids' well-being in the digital age.
Take action: If you or your children see any videos showing this footage, flag it immediately to social platforms for removal. And in the case of the New Zealand shooting, DO NOT share the video if you come across it online.
May we do our best to be safe and thoughtful digital parents and caregivers. There’s a tremendous amount of work to be done to make the Internet a safer place for its users, and we, as parents and caregivers, must be part of the solution.
Take action: Utilize the many resources available to us as parents and caregivers that help teach our children about online safety. Guide children in this world, both online and off. Teach children how to be good digital citizens. Interact with technology alongside children. Talk about technology with children. Serve as role models for children as to what healthy digital habits look like. Keep up with the latest in safe and thoughtful digital parenting. Inspire all, young and old, to think about technology and how it can impact—both positively and negatively—ourselves as well as those around us.
ON TALKING WITH OUR CHILDREN.
May we learn how to talk about tragedies with our children in age-appropriate ways. We can't ignore the conversation about violence—because it keeps happening.
Take action: Learn how to talk with children about violence, handle the disturbing content they may see, and more. Here are just a few of the many resources available:
How to Talk to Kids About Violence, Crime, and War — Common Sense Media
How to Handle the Violent Videos at Your Kid's Fingertips — Common Sense Media
Helping children cope: Tips for talking about tragedy — Mayo Clinic
ON TAKING CARE OF OURSELVES.
May we take care of ourselves. We can’t help our families if we, as parents and caregivers, don’t take care of ourselves as well.
Take action: Take advantage of these mental health services available (thanks to Cool Mom Picks for compiling these in their article):
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
Crisis Text Line — Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information via a medium people already use and trust: text. Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the United States, anytime, about any type of crisis.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. Call 1-800-273-8255.
ON BEING KIND.
May we all make an extra effort to spread a little kindness today and always. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, but every little bit helps.
Take action: Open the door for someone. Offer a smile. Send a card. Say thank you. Tip your wait staff an extra dollar or two. Pay for someone’s coffee in the drive-through. Call a loved one to say hi. Shovel the neighbor’s sidewalk. Offer to sit with a new mom’s baby so she can shower. Do anything that is kind. It has a ripple effect. Tragedies such as the New Zealand shooting offer additional opportunities to spread kindness at places such as your local Muslim Association to show you stand unified against hate.
ON GUN VIOLENCE.
May we fight gun violence in all of its forms to keep our families safe.
Take action: Get involved in gun violence prevention movements such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Everytown for Gun Safety, Sandy Hook Promise, It Takes Us, Giffords, and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
May we Be SMART for Kids and bring together all responsible adults to reduce suicides and the number of unintentional shootings that occur when children get ahold of an unsecured firearm.
Take action: Sign up to get involved in your community at besmartforkids.org.
Today and always.
Today and always, may we turn our energy into action. Stay safe and thoughtful out there, Trepid Tech Mom. And let's help our kids do the same. We’re in this together. You are not alone.