Living in today’s fast-paced and increasingly unpredictable world, you might wonder what the future (or even the present) holds for the mental health of children in these times. This is a natural question, given that our children are growing up in a world full of violence, both in the media, we are exposed to and in the real world we live in.
The Impact of Violence on Our Children
One risk for children today is the extent and the degree to which they are exposed to threats or violence. Tragically, many children in our culture are exposed to threats and/or violence on a daily basis. We see this in things like exposure to unhealthy media (news, TV shows, video games, Internet sites, etc.), bullying, and hearing about the painful events that occur in our nation and our world.
This exposure to violent media can increase aggressiveness in children. This is a serious concern given that many of the most popular games played by young people today encourage the players to kill, or at least injure, the other characters in order to succeed. Role-playing games, arcade games (fighting games), and so-called “first-person shooter” games are some of the genres that immediately come to mind. Did you know that there are mainstream, widely-available games that promote things like senselessly murdering people, stealing cars, and having sex with prostitutes? These are the kinds of “games” that some children in our culture are filling their minds with.
Given this, and the violent and threatening behavior kids see and hear about in the world around them, it is no wonder that some children feel a license to bully others and engage in other aggressive or threatening behavior. We live in a world that filled with threats and violence in the name of religious extremism, and in a nation that is steadily becoming less civilized and less concerned with treating others in the way we wish to be treated.
Couple violence and aggression in our nation and our world, together with such bullying and regular exposure to media-based threats and violence, impacts our families. And it then becomes clear that our children, like the rest of us, need to talk about our fears. We all need to deal with the negative things we have experienced in order to avoid internalizing them so that they eat away at our psyche.
Children are More Vulnerable to Threats and Violence
This brings us to the second risk. Children may not have the depth of understanding that adults have concerning the ways of the world, including its threats and violence. However, they are not immune to the effects of this violence when exposed to it. In fact, their lack of understanding can actually make the situation more frightening or traumatic. For example, think of a young child who becomes upset when his or her parents leave for work or get involved in a disagreement. Without understanding the context of these things as normal human activities and behaviors, they will appear very frightening.
We live in the Information Age and our culture and lives move a mile a minute. We struggle to keep up with the latest trends, status updates and work reports that need to be completed. It is so easy, therefore, to forget to take the time to process what is going on in the world – and what our children may have been exposed to. However, by doing so we can help to prevent it from taking root and causing psychological distress or impairment. Consider your own life: When was the last time you were able to take the time to sit down and talk to your children about distressing current events, the bullying in their school, or what they see on TV or in their video games? When did you last simply stop and ask whether they have any concerns? I encourage you to do this if you don’t already, and I encourage you to be open about these topics in order to provide a safe place in which your children can ask questions and express their concerns.
Christian Counseling to Help Your Children Face the World
As a Christian counselor, I am very aware of how threatening the world can be for our children. If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, whether due to some negative experience of theirs or for some other reason, I encourage you to reach out and schedule an appointment to discuss your evaluation and treatment options.
“Looking to Me,” courtesy of Donnie Ray Jones, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Family Dinner Picnic,” courtesy of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)