With the amount of content in the media, as well as the ease of accessing them in our current society, children can easily be exposed to harmful content, including ones of a violent nature. And because of this electronic and media uprising in today’s society, we have been desensitized to a lot of things we once thought were taboo.

Though this is the case, and no matter which direction society shifts, violence is never good for children and should never be exposed to them. This can lead to many negative effects on their mental health and can seriously harm their development into adulthood.

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A 2016 study by UAE publication ‘The National’, reports that child abuse levels in the UAE are relatively low compared to most other countries. However, domestic violence or overexposure to violent behaviour can happen anywhere and to anyone.

Violence can be demonstrated at home by a family member, at school by a friend, in public by a stranger or even on TV when watching a violent movie. Developing ways, we can decrease violence exposure to children, change their lifestyle habits as well as our own, can significantly benefit a child and their healthy development into adulthood.

The Effects of Over Exposure of Violence to Children

don't Expose Your Child to Violence

1. Fear and grief

This is the most prominent and normal reaction towards violence when children are first exposed to it. As children are not taught violence or physical conflict, at first site, it will conjure fear or even terror.

When exposed to violence or to something extremely confronting for the first time, the child should confide with an adult at first instance. If a child is left with fear and grief without being able to reach the emotional support of a parent or guardian in time, this fear can develop into trauma and more serious matters.

2. Aggressive behaviour

As children are extremely impressionable at young ages, if they are exposed to violence at early ages and aren’t able to comprehend its consequences, they will begin to act out in aggressive ways as they are under the impression that it is normal.

If a child is continuously exposed to violence or physical conflict, the child will then believe that the behaviour is acceptable. If this exposure is not intervened early enough, the child may begin to develop behavioral issues and become rebellious. Disciplining them at this point can become difficult.

3. Desensitization to violence

The human brain is not wired to comprehend extensive amounts of violence. Things that are graphic, disturbing or extreme, should never become desensitized to anyone, especially children. If children become desensitized to violence due to overexposure, their mental health will become unstable and may even begin to deteriorate.

By desensitizing violence to children, they may not be able to comprehend or think normally after that. Multiple studies have shown that people who were exposed to too much violence will begin to lack empathy, compassion, and remorse. Their sense of right and wrong also begins to deteriorate. This type of mental instability can lead to violent behaviours and hurt other individuals.

4. Depression and anxiety

Overexposure of violence can cause a breakdown in mental health, especially in children who do not have the necessary help or guidance. If your child is exposed to too much violence and feels all the above symptoms, depression, anxiety, and other detrimental mental conditions can follow. If your child ever reaches this stage, they should seek professional help immediately. 

How to Decrease The Exposure of Violence to Children

don't Expose Your Child to Violence
  • Set a good example – most children who grow up to have severe behavioural issues, mental health conditions or social anxieties are those who were exposed to or suffered from domestic violence. You and your partner need to set a good example for your child to follow. Create a home environment that they can cherish and nurture themselves from. Try not to fight or raise your voice in front of your child. Do not expose them to anything that might cause them fear or shock.
  • Teach your child right and wrong – no matter what they learn in school, or what they see in the media, it is important to let your child know the difference between right and wrong. What is acceptable and what is unacceptable. As we do not always have eyes on our children 24 hours 7 days a week, we have to instil the correct values and beliefs in them so that they are not so impressionable to the violent stimulus they may find in their external environment. 
  • Enrol them into a combat sports class – combat sports are an excellent way for your child to learn about what violence is, and how to keep it in check. Combat sports and martial arts not only teaches them how to defend themselves but also teaches them that violence does not have to be destructive and that it can also be constructive depending on the person demonstrating it. Most martial arts are not just physical disciplines, but also mental ones. There are a lot of valuable core beliefs that they teach, including courage, mental toughness, and peaceful ideals. 
  • Monitor what they watch on TV or other electronic devices – the best way to stop the exposure of violence to your child is to monitor what they watch. This means, monitoring what is on all of their viewing devices, what time they watch, and how much they watch. Many platforms allow parents to moderate and filter what is viewable and/or accessible to their children, so media does not have to be as harmful it is.
  • Speak with their teacher or another guardian – Be in touch with their other guardians and caregivers. Every child is different, and so they all must be treated with care. Stay in touch with your child’s other caregivers, including their other parent or class teachers. That way, you know that they are learning the right values and in safe conditions that won’t contradict what you teach your child.

Do You Need Help?

don't Expose Your Child to Violence

If you are finding it difficult to educate your child in regards to violence or other issues that may be harming their growth and development, always seek help. There is an abundance of resources available such as support groups, children’s psychiatrists, as well as school resources.

Also, never forget that your child’s doctor may also be able to assist with your child’s mental health. Whenever in doubt, keep your child’s doctor close, as you never know when you’ll need them next.

Head over to the Okadoc app to immediately book an appointment with your health practitioner.