Have Our Kids Become Numb to Terror?

2013_Boston_Marathon_bombings_map“Someone told me at school there was a bombing in Boston.”

That’s what my seventh-grade daughter said when she got home from school yesterday. The fact that she’d heard about it before I could tell her wasn’t what surprised me.  What shocked me was the matter-of-fact way in which she mentioned it.

There was no shock in her voice. She didn’t seem particularly upset. In fact, she told me that she knew about the news in Boston in about the same tone that she usually tells me what homework she has to get done.

Even. Nonplussed. Almost ambivalent.

Now, she didn’t know the details about the types of bombs used or about the people killed or the growing numbers of those injured or of the limbs lost. I suspect that when she learns those details, her reaction will be much changed.

But I don’t know how to process the fact that our kids — or, at least, my kid — takes the initial news of a horrific tragedy like the one in Boston as something that is just a matter of course in her life as she knows it.

There are several good posts I’ve seen about “how to talk with your children about the Boston bombings,” which are more focused on making sure younger children understand certain things so they don’t get too upset and can process the information in age appropriate ways. They’re the same sort of pieces we see every time there is a terrorist event — and, yes, regardless of who ends up being responsible, I call the Boston Marathon bombing an act of terror.  Just as the Newton shootings were.  Just as the Aurora movie theater deaths were. Just as so many acts to kill innocent people are, regardless of the nationalities of the perpetrators.

I’m sure my child is not the only one who seems to have become somewhat numb to the horrors of 21st century life. All of us have to be on a certain level just to get through the day sometimes. But I distinctly remember being horrified each and every time I watched TV news coverage of the Vietnam war. I don’t remember ever thinking that the violence and death I saw on the nightly news was just a part of my everyday life. Those images stayed with me even as I ate dinner, worked on algebra, and tried not to see those images as I fell asleep.

But somehow, we have become a society where we are raising children who move through life not as impacted by this type of violence. Is it just a way to shield themselves from being inundated by almost regular brushes with violence beyond their control? Or have they grown up with so many horrifying events in their lives that our teens and tweens have accepted events like the Boston bombings as something they know they’ll be living with all their lives?

Image via Wikimedia Commons/CC License

  • This is the world our children live in. And it is very sad. My son was 11 when 9/11 happened and so his world view is as shaped by that as is mine by the JFK murder.

  • It’s devastating. There seems to be bad news every few months and my kids don’t seem as phased about it as I still get.

  • Joan Haskins

    My 21 year old daughter calmly informed me yesterday that “we are not safe anywhere.” No panic or anxiety in her voice, just the voice of a young woman who is growing up in the only world she has ever known, and determined to carry on.

  • Joan Haskins

    I must add, I don’t believe our children lack compassion, however. If anything, they have both more strength, and more desire to be a part of the change for good.

  • Bob Palmquist

    When I was growing up, I lived in a part of the world that was being terrorized by Muslim terrorists on a weekly basis. Bombs were being set off in train stations, restaurants, etc. regularly. It was a part of life. We were aware of it, but it didn’t affect our lives particularly because it was a big country and the likelihood of one of us being hurt was extremely small. Life went on. Time was different then, the newspapers would cover the explosions, but it wouldn’t go on and on and on. After a few days, they would move on to new material. I think that was a healthier mode than what we have now. Eventually peace was made and the bombings stopped. If you look at the folks that live in Israel or other places that face regular bombings, they look at things the same way. It’s something that happens, try to protect yourself, but don’t let it affect your life more than it has to. If you let yourself be terrorized by it, the terrorists have won.

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