Startts - NSW Service for the treatment and rehabilitation of torture and trauma survivors  

Social Media Exposure to Real Life Violence

From the Editor’s Desk

I am pleased to announce that the Hints for Healing e-zine is back! Since the last issue, I have come into the role of School Liaison Counsellor at STARTTS and each season, I look forward to bringing together the expertise of various clinicians to support readers’ therapeutic work with children from refugee backgrounds. If there are particular topics you would like to see addressed in the e-zine, please get in touch with us at

This summer, Hints for Healing examines the issue of children with refugee backgrounds being triggered by real and explicitly violent images and videos, so readily available via the internet. Other media risks for children such as violent video games and movies, cyber bullying, online sexual abuse and viewing of pornographic material have received significant media and research attention. Their risks for children are relatively well understood. However, there is little guidance available for parents and teachers on preventing the harm associated viewing real-life violent imagery. The exacerbated risk for children recovering from their own experiences of war-related violence, has received even less attention.

In recent years especially, we have found that teachers and parents are at a loss as to how to prevent children’s exposure to such upsetting images and how to respond when a child tells them what they’ve seen. In this issue, Lillian Mai, a Child and Adolescent Counsellor at STARTTS presents a de-identified case study of her work with her 15 year-old client Mark, whose trauma symptoms were triggered by social media exposure to the violence occurring in his country of origin. In Deb’s Digest, STARTTS’ Clinical Supervisor, Deb Gould provides guidance on both clinical assessment and intervention with children from refugee backgrounds who view non-fiction violence online. And finally, Susan Hetherington, a Journalism Lecturer from QUT examines the issue from a developmental perspective and also emphasises the importance of supporting children to develop a balanced world view.

The New Zealand, non-profit organisation Netsafe has provided some helpful tips that can guide caregivers’ responses to children who have viewed online material that upsets them. They advise caregivers to avoid blaming responses regarding how the child accessed the material and to focus on providing comfort and assurance. Since the child may be feeling a host of difficult emotions, such as anger, guilt, fear and confusion, it is helpful to normailise their response to viewing such upsetting content. It is important that the child knows you are glad that they told you what they saw and to avoid any punitive responses, such as removing access to technology. Later on, when the child’s immediate reaction has subsided, it can be helpful to provide some context for the images they have seen and discuss how exposure could be avoided in the future. However, if intense feelings persist, it may be an indication that the material has triggered symptoms related to the child’s traumatic experiences, and referral to a professional counsellor should be considered.

Best wishes,
Nicole Loehr

Deb's Digest

Deb Gould
> Deb Gould is a STARTTS Clinical Psychologist and
clinical supervisor.

Since our last edition, images of Aylan Kurdi, of beheadings and of Farhad Jabaar’s last seconds on a Parramatta street have been presented to all of us; inviting us to look and daring us to look away. Those now iconic pictures of Aylan’s lifeless little body led to outpourings of grief and giving in almost equal measure. But, not all viewers have had the luxury of being able to see and respond either with simple tears or with generosity and action. This edition of Hints for Healing is for children and young people in this group; people who have faced the images and cannot let them go, sometimes seeking them out obsessively.
Learn more >>

Case Study: 'Mark'

Lillian Mai
> Lillian Mai, STARTTS Child and Adolescent Counsellor

Mark is a 15 year-old male teenager from Iraq who arrived in Australia early last year on a humanitarian refugee visa with his siblings and both parents. He attends an Intensive English Centre within a mainstream high school in Western Sydney. Mark appears to have strong relationships and bonds with his siblings and both his parents.
Learn more >>

Little brother is watching you

Susan Hetherington
> Susan Hetherington, Journalism Lecturer, Queensland University of Technology

It once was the case that footage of the most violent, most disturbing, most graphic world events was restricted to the evening news. Even then, news editors acted as gatekeepers filtering out the images considered too confronting to be broadcast. If they were shown at all, they were removed from the early evening news when children may be watching and restricted to the late night bulletins for a strictly adult audience.
Learn more >>

Nicole Loehr
> Nicole Loehr is the School Liaison Counsellor and Project Officer at STARTTS

From the Editor's Desk

Deb's Digest

Case study: 'Mark'

Little brother is
watching you

Sticky Notes

Add me to the
mailing list!
Click here

Core concepts in working with children and adolescents from refugee backgrounds 18 March 2016


Clinical seminar
Cultural competence in trauma treatment: Beyond symptoms to the context and the person Dr Laura S Brown (USA) 3-4 March 2016


Disclaimer The information contained in Hints for Healing is provided as an information source only. The views expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect the position or views of STARTTS.  The material is provided on the basis that readers are responsible for making their own assessments of the issues discussed, and always work under clinical supervision.

© 2015 STARTTS  Contact: