How to talk to your kids and address social media concerns in the wake of another school shooting

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — As another tragedy unfolds in front of our eyes, it’s important to take note it’s also unfolding in front of your kids.

On Tuesday, 19 students lost their lives at a Texas elementary school after a gunman opened fire inside a classroom.

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Two adults, both teachers, were also killed.

Now schoolchildren of all ages around the nation may be having difficulties this week.

Forensic psychologist Dr. Justin D’Arienzo said it’s up to parents to start that conversation.

“You have to share whatever is developmentally appropriate. Young kids are not going to know a lot and not really going to want to know a lot,” D’Arienzo said.

He said young kids will want reassurance that this won’t happen to them and older kids may want to talk more deeply.

He also said it’s important to not reinforce the fear, which means not allowing them to stay home from school.

“If you help them avoid it or you let them avoid it, then those places even become scarier. And we want next year to be an easy transition to going back to school,” D’Arienzo said.

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, it’s important you let your kids know they’re welcome to express their feelings. It’s also recommended you remain open to answering questions and it’s OK if you can’t answer all of them.

Keep in mind, if your child doesn’t want to talk, don’t push them to do so.

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D’Arienzo said it’s up to parents to warn their kids what they might see online.

“You’re giving them a heads-up, this happened, this may be what you’re going to see,” D’Arienzo said.

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, you may need to protect your child from too much media. You need to explain to them what triggers may come from the internet and make sure they’re aware of rumors on social media.

As the event unfolded in Texas, new pictures are surfacing of the shooter and his social media posts before he opened fire. It appears Salvador Ramos, 18, posted several pictures of guns and ammo before the shooting.

On Wednesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott revealed that Ramos posted on Facebook, “I’m going to shoot an elementary school” just 15 minutes before the attack.

“Red flags for a school shooter would be somebody that has a new fascination with hurting themselves or hurting other people, and usually they’re going to be talking about it whether they’re sharing poems or whether they’re posting pictures of weapons,” D’Arienzo said.

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He said now is the time to sit down with your children and teach them potential warning signs, and tell them it’s OK to be vigilant and speak up.

“What you want to say is, ‘these are the warning signs if you ever see anything like this, it’s really important that you tell me or you tell another adult at school or even a police officer if you need to,’” D’Arienzo said.

He also said if your own child is making threats about hurting themselves or others, whether that’s verbally, written, or via social media, to seek professional help immediately.