This is a serious concern for all parents these days. It is all the more difficult because of the proliferation of the great range of social media dedicated to disseminating news, often in real time. While you may be able to protect a 3-year-old, it is pretty difficult to protect a 9-year-old or an 11-year-old who has access to social media at home or via friends.
Nonetheless, I can make a few suggestions that may be useful in approaching this dilemma.
1) Model peace in the home. This could not be more important. Violence and aggression are violence and aggression whether they occur in the microcosm of the home or in the macro environment of the larger world. Domestic violence, verbal abuse, gang-activity and war exist on a continuum of aggression and violence. You have more control over the conflict and peace modeled in your home than is possible anywhere else in the outside world.
2) Give your children as much exposure as possible to joyful, relaxed, charity-minded individuals and organizations and get them involved in some of these activities. This is not being Pollyanna-ish, this is common sense. I choose to continue to believe that there is more good than bad in the world even if the bad is what captures the headlines. Show your children the good things in the world that make the headlines less often, but are just as real.
3) Limit the amount of time you spend with the television and computer news on and teach your children fun and constructive ways to use their time, both play time and screen time. If you, as an adult, wish to go more deeply into the news about a difficult subject, like the activities of Isis or news about the latest mass murders happening in our country, do so when you will not be exposing the children to this input.
4) Give age-appropriate reality-based explanations to children of different ages to help them understand that while there is danger in the world and people who do bad things, you are there to protect them and they do not have to be afraid walking around in their day-to-day lives. This is especially difficult to do when it comes to discussions about school violence and the increasing security measures that may be implemented in their schools. It is important that you discuss these types of potential events with your children in a measured, rational and reassuring way so as not to convey your own extreme fear to them. Make a safety plan, but don’t catastrophize.
5) If you are able, do what you can personally and as a family to help make the world a safer and better place for all of us, adults and children alike. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
There is no perfect solution to the problems of a highly imperfect and unpredictable society. Nonetheless, we still have numerous opportunities to make a difference, especially with respect to giving our children a leg up in dealing with our sometimes dangerous, sometimes wonderful world. In time, perhaps we can make our world a less dangerous place to grow up.