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Kids are watching war on social media: Here’s what parents should know (and do)

Social platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok bring war closer to home for everyone, including young kids.
/ Source: TODAY

In the wake of Hamas' deadly attack against Israel on Oct. 7, graphic images of war have spread across various social media accounts.

To date, over 1,000 Israeli and Palestinian people have died as a result of the assault and subsequent Israeli military response.

Videos of not only the deadly attacks, but of Hamas terrorists kidnapping men, women and children have since circulated online, in addition to videos of bombings in Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

In Tel Aviv, CNN reports that one school warned parents to remove social media from their children's phones in anticipation of possible hostage videos spreading on popular social apps.

Experts say parents can and should help their kids make sense of the sometimes graphic, violent and upsetting images they may be seeing.

Here's what experts say parents should do:

1. Scroll with your kids

Laura Linn Knight, a parenting educator and author of the upcoming book, "Break Free from Reactive Parenting," tells that if parents allow their children to use social media it's important to know what accounts they follow and what information they are accessing.

"I don’t think we need to shield kids from the current events of our time," Knight says. "These are important conversations to be having, but it’s so important for parents to fact check and find reliable information.

She also recommends sitting down with kids and scrolling their social media feeds together.

"Kids are wanting autonomy with their own screens, and parents are feeling the need to supervise and to have limits, but it causes this daily power struggle in so many homes,” she says.

2. Ask 'curiosity questions'

Knight says that asking "curiosity questions" is a good way to begin conversations.

"In this situation, there’s a lot going on in the world today," she says. "Keep it broad at first, like 'What are you hearing at school?' (or) 'What images do you see on social media?'"

Knight says she uses this tactic with her own children.

"For my kids, I like to check in and say, 'When you saw that, how did that make you feel? Are you having any concerns? What feelings are coming up for you?' So letting the child lead in that way," Knight explains.

3. Keep the conversation going

The Arizona-based parenting educator emphasizes the importance of keeping the conversation going on topics like these.

"A lot of times, parents can be like OK, we talked about it," Knight tells "Older children want to be on social media, see these images, be brave, (and) have access to these things, so they may not be telling you everything they are feeling. It’s so important to loop back in."

4. 'Show me what's scary'

Neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez offers another action-based approach for parents.

"Ask your child to show you images or videos that he or she deems scary online or on social media," Hafeez tells "Ask them what elements they find scary.  If the child perceives these videos or photos as scary, ask why they are drawn to them in the first place."

Hafeez shares that kids may not know they can "hide" material on social media that they find offensive or upsetting.

"As their parent, show them how this can be done so they can have a less triggering social media experience," the New York City-based doctor shares.

5. Teach about misinformation

Hafeez said parents should also inform children about misinformation, which is certainly everywhere in war and on social media.

"Explain to your child the meaning of 'gossip' and how people or entities benefit from it," she says. "Cite examples that might occur in your child’s school regarding how 'fake news' might be spread about a student, a sports team or a teacher."

Hafeez says depending on the age of the child, parents can explain the meaning of “clickbait” and how to recognize it.

Parents should also ask their kids where they typically go for information.

"Explain to them that some websites are purposely satirical, and why that satire exists," Hafeez says, adding that "Project Look Sharp," a non-profit dedicated to media literacy, has devised questions to help older kids evaluate online information.

Both Knight and Hafeez emphasize that handling social media content and children is not a "one-size-fits-all" approach.

6. You're the expert on your child, your values

"As the parent, you have to take into account what you are comfortable having them see at a particular age that jibes with your core values," Hafeez says. "Parents need to think about what could trigger their child emotionally."

Adds Knight, "It gives parents an opportunity to loop back in with their own family values. When something big is happening in the world, how can we create meaningful change? What can we do in our own family to help?"