editorial Massacres, media coverage and mending the hurt



In the wake of yet another mass shooting in the US, the questions about why and what must be done to stop them always arise.
Many psychologists and psychiatrists point to the role of alienation from society, anger and desire for revenge among young, mostly male, individuals. In their desire to seek vengeance for the their perceived hurt, they see a chance to make a name for themselves – to go out in a blaze of glory as others have done. Others point to the marketing of guns in the US , saying: “gun makers depend heavily on marketing to sell their wares. Smith & Wesson’s parent in its fiscal year 2021 annual report wrote that it crossed the $1 billion threshold in sales for the first time in its history—which spans over a century and a half. …
more than one company markets to young people by glorifying guns in videogame-style ads”.
Rutgers University Professor of Psychology, Paul Boxer offers five ways to reduce school shootings, including reducing the exposure of the young to media violence.
He says: “Exposure to and participation in virtual violence might not lead to aggressive behavior for all children
and adolescents. But watching violent programs and playing violent video games can lead to increased hostility, aggressive feelings, emotional desensitization to violence and ultimately aggressive behavior.
These effects can potentially be lessened by reducing the amount of screen violence to which children and adolescents are exposed over time, particularly early in development.”

What we should not be doing as a society is giving massive publicity to the perpetrators of massacres: we should name and mourn the victims, and give due honour to the rescuers who helped them.
In the words of the late Australian journalist Paddy McGuinness “no one knows what makes berserkers go berserk, but we should not be promoting them” (or words to that effect).
While we in Australia are exposed to few such events in real life, our media are saturated with the images, discussion, and photos of the perpetrator. Our children become anxious and worried about such events happening to them. And often these worries are long lasting.
So how can we best help them to deal with exposure to such tragedies?
Many children’s organisations offer useful resources for parents in talking to their children about what they’ve seen or heard.
The US Zero to Three organisation offers a range of free downloadables for use with children up to age three and/or their parents and carers.
The US Public Broadcasting Service offers advice on helping young children cope with tragic events in the news. Australia’s Raising Children Network offers advice aimed at 3 different age groups.
For parents: here’s a few thoughts from Sammy J.