In the Wake of Manchester: How Technology Advancements Impact Gen Z
I was in Belfast recently with my husband staying and enjoying time with our friends as part of an extended vacation that included visits to London, Dublin and ultimately Belfast.
One day we took the hop-on, hop-off bus to see more of the Belfast landscape and heard about the peace lines and walls. The walls are a series of barriers in Northern Ireland that separate the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. Many of the gates are staffed by police that permit passage during the day but remain closed at night. It was surreal to see these areas where many are still living in fear of violence similar to what occurred in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert.
When I was nine years old playing outside with my friends, I remember hearing my mom crying through the kitchen window. I ran inside to ask her what was wrong and she told me she just heard on the radio that Elvis Presley died. That was August 16, 1977 and the news was typically heard over a radio.
On January 28, 1986, the spaceship Challenger exploded 73 seconds after takeoff. For many Baby Boomers, and the Gen Xers, we watched the news on television. Those of us in school on that fateful day were watching the takeoff and experienced the explosion as it happened. It was disturbing for those of us who watched it live and most schools sent the kids home to be with their parents.
May 22, 2017, several of the survivors who attended the Ariana Grande concert were using their smart phones to record the concert along with aftermath once the bomb went off. With access to technology 24/7 and social media, generations of children globally have been exposed to a heightened sense of fear and terror.
It’s even more difficult not to allow ourselves or children to get upset by the rolling media coverage of an unfolding tragedy with its graphic footage and heartbreaking interviews of those directly affected. For Generation Z, such news can be difficult to understand.
Escaping these types of big stories can be difficult when they’re everywhere you go, on the television at home, on your car radio, all over your favorite websites and on the front page of the newspaper.
Research shows even adults can be traumatized by the constant stream of bad news, especially in the wake of disasters or senseless acts of violence. Intense media coverage of disasters such as terrorist attacks, plane crashes, floods, and earthquakes can trigger a strong emotional response in many people of any age.
Young children can be particularly sensitive to such coverage, especially those around preschool age, who may worry the same sort of thing is going to happen to them and their family. I am confident that many young girls who may have dreamed of going to their first concert may not ever want to go now due to the Manchester bombing.
There are ways to help children cope with and process disaster-related news and coverage:
Do limit viewing time, but don’t try to keep it a secret. While it is important to protect children from excessive media coverage, we shouldn’t try to shield them from the events that are happening.
Be with them when they are seeing, or reading, stories. You can explain what is happening to children, they will better understand what is going on and reassure them if they are feeling worried or anxious.
Remind them good things happen too. All the news does is keep showing the hurt of the event, and not the strengths and courage that people exhibit while helping each other.
Provide comfort and affection. This is an opportunity for parents to have conversations with their children about their feelings, and reassuring them it is okay to grieve or cry.
Distract them with a game or activity. While shielding your child entirely from coverage of negative news is not helpful or practical, there does come a time when enough is enough. Limit access to TV, smart phones, iPads, etc. and head outdoors together or play a game.
In our chaotic world disasters are going to happen. Be proactive in your approach to helping children cope and you'll be taking the first step toward awareness and ending the madness.
Sherri Elliott-Yeary, the Generational Guru and best selling author of Ties to Tattoos, Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage, is a speaker, coach and trainer in the area of Human Resources and Talent Management. Sherri specializes in helping employers maximize their human capital by collaborating across the generational gap. Her expertise in human capital management and organization includes: workforce planning, company culture, training, assessments, HRIS implementation, regulatory compliance, strategic alignment, payroll, compensation and benefit programs. Learn more at generationalguru.com.