Length: 516 words (1.5 double-spaced pages)
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As horrible and frightening as incidents like these are, they are rare. Although it may not seem that way, the rate of crime involving physical harm has been declining at U.S. schools since the early 1990s. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fewer than 1% of all homicides among school-age children happen on school grounds or on the way to and from school. The vast majority of students will never experience violence at school.
Still, it's natural for kids and teens - no matter where they go to school - to worry about whether this type of incident may someday affect them. How can you deal with these fears? Talking to your child about the tragedy, and what he or she watches or hears about it, will help your child put frightening information into a more balanced context.
Many schools are taking extra precautions to keep students safe.
Some schools have focused on keeping weapons out, by conducting random locker and bag checks, limiting entry and exit points at the school, and keeping the entryways under teacher supervision. Other schools use metal detectors, such as those used in airport security.
Lessons on conflict resolution have also been added to many schools' courses, to help prevent troubled students from resorting to violence. Peer counseling and active peer programs have also helped students become more aware of the signs that a fellow student may be becoming more troubled or violent.
Another thing that helps make schools safer is greater awareness of problems like bullying and discrimination. Many schools now have programs to fight these problems, and teachers and administrators know more about protecting students from violence.
Of course, you are not your child's only source of information about the recent school shooting or other tragic events that receive media attention. Your child is likely to repeatedly encounter news stories or graphic images on television, radio, or the Internet, and such reports can teach kids to view the world as a confusing, threatening, or unfriendly place.
Unlike movies or entertainment programs, news is real. But depending on your child's age or maturity level, he or she may not yet understand the distinctions between fact and fantasy.
By the time a child reaches 7 or 8, however, what he or she watches on TV can seem all too real. For some youngsters, the vividness of a sensational news story can be internalized and transformed into something that might happen to them. A child watching a news story about a school shooting might worry, "Could I be next? Could that happen to me?" TV has an effect of shrinking the world and bringing it into your own living room.
By concentrating on violent stories, television news can also promote a "mean-world" syndrome, which can give children a misrepresentation of what the world and society is actually like.