Sandy Hook Shooting Silence: Floundering in Social Media Darkness

Dec. 18, 2012 On Friday I was passing through Dallas, home to a select group of gun-toting citizenry rabid about rights to conceal weapons, when I heard the horrific news about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary and fell into a heap in front of a TV monitor at DFW airport.

I watched the faces of those around me with earnest, wondering which card-carrying member of the NRA would trade the ‘freedom’ of owning a rapid-fire assault weapon for the life of a child.

All faces were equally ashen and grim, transfixed on the media spewing forth and it gave me a twisted form of comfort knowing that at least all of us regardless of our belief systems were equally repulsed in our public jaw-clenched restraint.

Truth is, I’ve gone dark for several days on social media because I’m struggling. I’ve written the “resources to reassure children” articles WAY too many times, and just need to hush up and point people elsewhere for those seeking talking points and conversation, even though I want to ‘help’ with healing and recap the links that could contextualize the rarity of tragedy…

But it’s happening all too often.

From Virginia Tech coping tips, essays on the role of violence in the media to local security systems in emergency school situations, and how to talk to kids about headline news from Sept 11 to natural disasters, my disheartened reaction to the lack of proactive solutions and sickening slaughter of innocents has left me floundering in silence, and unplugged on multiple levels.

I have nothing more to say critiquing the media’s mindless rush to being first over being accurate, nor about media literacy crosschecks on viral Facebook fodder falsely attributed to Morgan Freeman (who social media has inaccurately buried so many times he’s rivaling nine lives) nor about my own child’s experience returning to high school with classmates upended and in tears during a government class recapping policy, practices and prevention, nor about the lunacy of kids toting MORE guns to school for ‘self-protection,’ nor even about the promising news when lawmakers turn against powerful special interests with ‘enough is enough’ finality. I can give you the links to get the conversations going, but I’m not able to talk about it.

I’m speechless. And sad. And frankly, not able to ‘process’ the information with any degree of professionalism.

My father, who specialized in international counter-terrorism always told me that when we alter our behavior out of fear and risk assessment, we’ll have given up our precious freedoms and terrorists will have ‘won’… Let’s hope “love wins” instead.

As the sensationalism spreads to Mayan calendar conversations and copycat creeps, I’ll conclude by sounding like a macabre cartoon…the ‘end of the world’ media madness is the least of our current problems.

I’m moving on to other topics not out of desensitization, but instead out of my own survival instinct grasping at normalcy, hope, and humanity to triumph. I wish I could ‘help’ but I’m putting my own oxygen mask on first, as these incidents continue to chisel away at my worldview in a way that’s hard to recover.

Every tomorrow has two handles.  We can take hold of it by the handle of anxiety, or by the handle of faith.  ~Author Unknown

Resources and Talking Tips For Kids Amidst Violent Headline News:

Trying to Make Sense of Tragedy: Why the Sandy Hook Shooting Is So Painful For All of Us

Artists Bring Healing After Recent Tragedy: Unify/Sandy Hook

Center on Media & Child Health: Research/News/Resources for Dealing With Tragedy

Educational Leadership: When the World is a Dangerous Place

12 Facts About Guns and Mass Shootings in the United States (Washington Post)

How to Talk With Kids about Tragedies Like the Aurora, CO Shooting

Children Now: Talking With Kids About the News Excellent specific talking tips on terrorism and random mass incidents (complete with role play) and a solid roundup of web link resources on terrorism/tragedies of various kinds

Talking with Kids about Headline News (PBS Parents)

Explaining the News to our Kids (Common Sense Media)

NIMH Helping Children & Adolescents Cope With Violence and Disasters (Nat’l Inst of Mental Health)

Expert Tips on Talking to Kids About the Dark Knight Incident (health blog/Dallas News)

Create Your Own Media Headline (How media is made/interactive)

Teach Kids News (Grades 2-6)

Rebooting The News (great links/roundup of School Library Journal edu tools too!)

The News Literacy Project (How to Know What to Believe–digital literacy)

MIT/Reconstructing: A classroom exercise; reflections on humanity and media after tragedy (deconstructing media w/analysis of sound/news footage, etc.)

Talking With Kids About Tough Subjects (Before everyone else does)

American Red Cross/Facing Fear: Free Downloadable Curriculum for K-12

PBS Teachers: Media Literacy Sites & Programs Great list of links, shows, topics, guides and more

Media Literacy Clearinghouse Frank Baker has links out the wazoo on multiple areas of specialization as well as allied orgs (see our blogroll sidebar)

How to Talk to Your Child About the News Simple overview/KidsHealth primer

Kids Health: Primer/How Kids Perceive the News

Media Literacy 101: How to Detect Fear-Mongering

Children and Learning/Violence: (eHow)

Brady Campaign: (contextual framing) Mass Shootings/USA Since 2005

Impact of Media Violence/Tips: Common Sense Media

Helping Children Regain Their Emotional Safety After a Tragedy (KidPower)

Media Literacy  on Headline News +Tough Topics

by Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth

Dark Knight: Resources to Reassure Kids from Media Massacres (Batman Tragedy)

Bin Laden’s Death, Media, and Kids: Teach Your Children Well (comprehensive list of ‘terrorism specific’ convos to quell fears w/kids) 

Bringing Communities Together, Post 9-11 (MeetUp on 9-11-11)

Quaking Kids, Headline News: How Much is Too Much? (Japan)

The 411 on 9-11: What To Say to Kids About Headline News

Resource Roundup/Talking To Kids (Terrorism topics etc)

Virginia Tech Tragedy: Media Coping Tips

What Will Kids Learn About Dr. George Tiller…And From Who?

Role Modeling Resiliency: How Are Kids Coping Skills?

Mass Media Has A Role to Play in Curbing Violence (news)

SchoolLoop: Digital Voice Alert (Siren SoundOff: Media Call)

Media, Kids & Grief: Different Ages & Stages of Loss


  1. Let’s turn the tables then…here are a couple of things you might like:

    Ann Curry kicked off a 26 Acts of Kindness campaign saying “if you do good you will feel good”

    Connecticut PTSA is collecting paper snowflakes (and also monetary donations) to decorate the new school they will open for Sandy Hook students.

  2. Love this, Kris…got tingles. Jacob Devaney (who I linked to in the resources piece) talks a bit about the convergence of kindness between the multiple campaigns of ’26 Acts’ + ’3 days of love’ + the effort and Day of Peace 12/21/12 tmrw, with artists leading the healing (hadn’t heard about the snowflakes above, that’s very apropos, with the uniqueness of each child!) Here’s his lovely piece to add to the uplifting and bootstrapping. (and yes, I know you’re right, it’s just walloped me extra hard somehow in the ‘faith in humanity’ department so thank you, I really needed this!!)

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