Kids and teens can see scary things online. They might encounter animal torture, sexual content, spooky videos, horror films and frightening news. Scary things stick to children’s minds – they can describe them rather detailed afterwards.
Kids sometimes search for scary YouTube videos as a dare. In addition to purely horrifying content, there are videos that look harmless but include a shocking effect. It’s good to be aware of these kind of videos. One way of avoiding them is checking out the comments below the video to see if the content is what it seems. It’s also a nice favor to others to write a comment when seeing videos with misleading beginnings and descriptions.
Sometimes internet phenomena become a big topic among kids and youth. The need to belong might lead to finding out what the phenomena is all about – even though you wouldn’t like to do so. A good example of this is Jeff the Killer, a trending topic among kids that consists of horror stories, videos and pictures.
Everyday things can be shocking
Disturbing content is not necessarily something scary. Even everyday things can get stuck in a child’s head. For instance a news article of a fire at school or war pictures in the evening news can cause fear and be difficult to forget.
It’s important to follow the PEGI age ratings and age recommendations for TV and cinema. Limiting screen time is also something you can do when educating your children in media literacy. However, there’s no way of preventing the kids from seeing scary or disturbing content.
Did you ever talk with grown-ups?
If all of this sounds terrifying, take a moment to think about the time you were a kid. You heard ghost stories from friends and bumped into adult content in TV and radio – on purpose or not.
Today’s kids have the same experiences, just through different media. When you were a kid and encountered scary content, did you ever talk about it with a grown-up?
Kids often deal with scary content all by themselves. It might not feel like a thing that they need to talk about with grown-ups.
Nevertheless, a piece of news, a video or a picture can be bothersome and cause for example insomnia. Therefore it’s a good idea to ask – for instance when watching TV together – if your kid has seen something weird, disturbing or disgusting online.
Kids often deal with scary things by themselves.
Listen to your kid
When discussing the topic, don’t force out an answer. As a parent you don’t have to have the skills of a professional psychologist. The most important thing is to show that you’ll be there and listen so that the kid can share their experiences in a safe environment.
Fears and anxieties are part of childhood. Thus it’s crucial that children feel safe to talk about those things and that parents have time to both listen and to answer questions.
My organisation arranges discussions for kids in various social media, for example on the Finnish goSupermodel. We aim to create an atmosphere where kids can talk with grown-ups about everyday life. In these discussions, kids have told us about scary things they’ve seen online. They prefer talking about them in social media rather than at home around the dinner table.