Today, three days after the horrific news from New Zealand, not one but two of our learners asked if they could talk confidentially to me. Neither of these two learners are in the same social circle and they don’t know each other. So, I was shocked to hear this -both of them had the same problem - through social media they were exposed to images from the killings. Somebody had included them in a group chat and had shared the images to the group. They didn’t know what to do. They didn’t want to get their friends in to trouble but they were upset by the images.
As one put it – “It’s not like we are watching a film. We watch films knowing that the actors will get up, wash off their make-up, hang up their costumes and go home once the filming is over. These people died – they won’t go home.”
What can we do as individuals? What has happened in New Zealand, last Friday, will have huge ramifications for a lot of people. The authorities, and public opinion, will deal with the Social Media and News companies in due course. The police, and the law, with deal with the perpetrator. The people of New Zealand and the world, have already reached out to the families directly affected and shown them they are not alone. That just leaves the people who shared this uninvited with others – shared it with others who did not wish to see this.
We cannot control what others do or what they say – we can only control our response. So, what was their response going to be? So far, they have done the right thing - both have deleted the contents and then have spoken with a trusted responsible adult, but they were still worried about what they should do.
As a teenager, your ability to assess risk and predict possible unintended outcomes has not fully developed. As a teenager, in a strong and robust group with lots of different viewpoints - it is hard to put your head over the parapet and challenge something like this. What we need now is kindness and consideration, we talked about how they could say in a group of their peers – “that wasn’t cool!”
We have decided to talk about how we might feel if that happened to our communities. How would we feel if we were at our church, our mosque, our synagogue or at a cultural or social gathering with our community and this happened? With pictures of our dead family and friends spreading across the world before our families knew one way or another if they were dead. How would we feel if it was our brothers and sisters, mother and fathers, grandparents – we would feel that their lives and their deaths were disrespected, that our community was disrespected.
The adults who originally shared this might have not intended vulnerable teenagers to see the murder of 50 people. They may have not considered the effect of what the murder of other children might have on children half a world away might be - but this is what has now happened. The message needs to be sent back up the chain of sharing – “that was grossly disrespectful and I don’t want to be a part of that again. Please think before you share!”