Dark Knight Rises: Resources to Reassure Kids

July 20, 2012 “Some Joker has to ruin it all,” a young ticket holder shaking his head fumed as news of the Batman movie premiere tragedy shot through every media channel from mobile to mainstream.

The macabre pun was suitable, intentional or not.

From CNN videos and sound reels to a CBS special airing in less than 24 hours we’re reminded that media is ambient in surround sound now, making news like this almost unavoidable, altering not just the viewer ‘experience’ but entire lives this opening weekend.

My teen is at the movies right now, (albeit not this one) fully aware of the incident, recognizing the exception not the rule, and continuing to go to the movies without a doubt …I’m more concerned about those who won’t.

It is horrific, tragic, and unbelievably surreal that entire lives have upended in 24 hours, and all of us grieve for the families, helplessly struggling to offer hope and support from afar. BUT…we need to ensure media coverage doesn’t create even more ‘collateral damage’ by placing wee ones in the blast zone with ‘did you hear’ scuttlebutt, gruesome details and scary misinformation leaving kids in a perpetual state of anxiety.

Headline news will no doubt trumpet every angle of the Dark Knight Rises mass shooting from the psychological aspects (a PhD candidate in neuroscience) to the political (gun control laws and firearms reform) and media violence blame game, those of us in the critical thinking sphere are fixating on basic “keep calm, carry on” tactics to quell fears and provide children reassurance with nuanced talking points by age and stage addressing “What do you say to a child” when news upends kids’ feeling of safety.

So without further ado, here’s a list of helpful resources to untangle this dark web and shine a light on the superheroes of media literacy who help parents navigate these surreal times. Use them as your secret weapon and invisible shield to signal to kids that the entire country isn’t bats.

Shaping Youth has covered these topics repeatedly, from natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis to youth trauma and APA tips on school shootings from student incidents like Virginia Tech and Columbine. We keep trying to remind parents and pop culture reporters that it’s essential to unpack the media morass beyond sound bites in an age appropriate manner for kids.

Resources and Talking Tips For Kids Amidst Violent Headline News:

How to Talk With Kids about Tragedies Like the Aurora, CO Shooting

Children Now: Talking With Kids About the News Excellent specific talking tipson terrorism and random mass incidents (complete with role play) and a solid roundup of web link resources on terrorism/tragedies of various kinds

Talking with Kids about Headline News (PBS Parents)

Explaining the News to our Kids (Common Sense Media)

NIMH Helping Children & Adolescents Cope With Violence and Disasters (Nat’l Inst of Mental Health)

Expert Tips on Talking to Kids About the Dark Knight Incident (health blog/Dallas News)

Create Your Own Media Headline (How media is made/interactive)

Teach Kids News (Grades 2-6)

Rebooting The News (great links/roundup of School Library Journal edu tools too!)

The News Literacy Project (How to Know What to Believe–digital literacy)

MIT/Reconstructing: A classroom exercise; reflections on humanity and media after tragedy (deconstructing media w/analysis of sound/news footage, etc.)

Talking With Kids About Tough Subjects (Before everyone else does)

American Red Cross/Facing Fear: Free Downloadable Curriculum for K-12

PBS Teachers: Media Literacy Sites & Programs Great list of links, shows, topics, guides and more

Media Literacy Clearinghouse Frank Baker has links out the wazoo on multiple areas of specialization as well as allied orgs (see our blogroll sidebar)

How to Talk to Your Child About the News Simple overview/KidsHealth primer

Kids Health: Primer/How Kids Perceive the News

Media Literacy 101: How to Detect Fear-Mongering

Children and Learning/Violence: (eHow)

Brady Campaign: (contextual framing) Mass Shootings/USA Since 2005

Impact of Media Violence/Tips: Common Sense Media

Helping Children Regain Their Emotional Safety After a Tragedy (KidPower)

Media Literacy  on Headline News +Tough Topics

by Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth

Bin Laden’s Death, Media, and Kids: Teach Your Children Well (comprehensive list of ‘terrorism specific’ convos to quell fears w/kids) 

Bringing Communities Together, Post 9-11 (MeetUp on 9-11-11)

Quaking Kids, Headline News: How Much is Too Much? (Japan)

The 411 on 9-11: What To Say to Kids About Headline News

Resource Roundup/Talking To Kids (Terrorism topics etc)

Virginia Tech Tragedy: Media Coping Tips

What Will Kids Learn About Dr. George Tiller…And From Who?

Role Modeling Resiliency: How Are Kids Coping Skills?

Mass Media Has A Role to Play in Curbing Violence (news)

SchoolLoop: Digital Voice Alert (Siren SoundOff: Media Call)

Media, Kids & Grief: Different Ages & Stages of Loss

A personal sidenote:

As one with extended family in Aurora, Colorado, and my brother who had his house burned to ashes in the Colorado Springs Mountain Shadows community (Waldo Canyon Fire/Flying W Ranch regions) I’d like to say the “Rocky Mountains” moniker applies to the summer season of tourism there, not to mention the fragile economic impact of ongoing tragedy in this state.

My plea? Please SUPPORT the state by visiting some of the many worthy wonders and landmark attractions, from Pikes Peak, Manitou Springs and Garden of the Gods red rock formations to the Olympic Training Center and national parks that abound, please consider visiting as there are SO many things to do.

Here’s just one of many links to “Colorado Family Attractions for Kids 10 and Under” It should be on a destination short list for family vacations to enjoy the spectacular wilderness landscape and rugged natural beauty…Here’s more via the parenting review site/app Trekaroo from a recent visit to The Springs.

One more addendum: HopeMob.org has added a special feature to their crowd-funding site to help the families and victims of the Aurora, CO shooting last night.

Just 24 hours ago at a midnight show lives were changed forever.

Could you help HopeMob help with funeral expenses, counseling costs and vital community support? As always, coverage is for verified expenses with a track record of exceptional grassroots direct impact. Thanks for your consideration…



  1. I would like to add to Amy’s note on Colorado and the tragedy in Aurora, I too have relatives in Denver and Conifer. I also have dear friends I have known for years both in Denver and Breckenridge where I live for many many years. People in Colorado are not crazies like someone wrote on a CNN news blog. It is a great place to visit and vacation. The people are incredibly nice and warm. Colorado Springs is like Amy mentioned wonderful and do visit it-Manitou Springs has always been a favorite of mine since my best friend growing up had a summer cabin there. So please support Colorado and help their economy stabilize.

  2. Thanks, Sylvia, that’s exactly my point…media can paint with broad brushstrokes, taking out an entire community, or STATE with comments like that.

    Colorado and its residents are going through some incredibly brutal times, and I love Hope Mob’s idea of quickly responding to put them at the top of their ‘features/needs’ list to lend a hand fast…It makes us all feel a bit less helpless to have social media be the conduit for POSITIVE change allowing those who grieve for the victims an outlet to ACT upon. It’s healing to reassure citizens EVERYwhere there’s GOOD out there and the world has NOT ‘gone bats.’

  3. Amy–At the risk of sounding like an ancient Heliocopter Mom, an overly-proud relative,etc.,etc.,ad nauseum–let me go on record as responding to your reaction to that dreadful fiasco in Aurora,CO. with a big YESSSSS! RIGHT ON!! I COULDN’T HAVE SAID IT BETTER!!-Would that the mainstream media could take a page from your blogs, m’dear!!—Yes, Virginia: there really IS some sanity left in the world–and No, we don’t need to make the perp “famous overnight” so I, too, suggest we refer to this mad-man from now on as old “Whatsiz name.” Colorado will always remain a Wonderful place to visit. Ready for a quick trip to the cabin when the aspen turn to gold? xoxoMom

  4. Awww…mama san! Great to hear from you on the blog (tumbleweeds here on comments, most folks have moved on to Twitter and FB one-liners, sigh)

    Since you clearly have been impacted by both the Colorado wildness AND my media immersion, I’m thrilled to see you agree that ‘tempered’ is the measured reaction of choice…I can’t tell you how many people are ‘flaming’ CO as ‘crazies’ here in CA, when of all states, we hold that flag in triple trump mode. (short memories on mass violent outbursts apparently)

    So yes, as a global citizen who views with a macro lens, dear mom, your comment couldn’t be more well-received or appreciated! Domo arigato…sensei indeed.

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    Does your blog have a contact page? I’m having a tough time locating it but, I’d like to send you an email. I’ve got some ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great blog and I look forward to seeing it develop over time.

  6. You can always reach me by leaving a comment here or via amy jussel @gmail dot com or amy at shapingyouth dot org. We’re overhauling the site now so the contact page will be much easier to find, but with 3million+ spam in the filters, it’s a tough one to manage, so any advice you can share from your etsy world to filter out the ‘sales/mktg’ pings would be grand…thx.

  7. As a member of the media and “recovering” attorney (former prosecutor, in fact) I appreciate this particular posts and I concur with the sentiments shared above. I am proud to say that our media company, World Footprints, is not part of the mainstream media. We’ve defined a niche of socially responsible travel & lifestyle because of the egregious reporting that we’ve seen both with this event and others. I am a native of Michigan and I love my former home, yet media has portrayed Michigan to be a state of crazy militants. That was both irresponsible and inaccurate reporting and the disparaging portrayal has done nothing to help injured parties or surviving family members heal then or now.

  8. Tonya, I just checked out your site and am now following World Footprints on Twitter…looks like we have amazing amounts of mutual interest beyond our disdain for cruddy media reporting 😉

    Thanks for sharing your site, and when I come up for air, think we might want to have a dialog about ‘sites people should know about but don’t’ as I’ve only recently discovered the Sustainable Travel Int’l org and other great eco-tourism family friendly sites…and think these alt companies should get some alt MEDIA attention. 😉

    I’m hoping Missy Franklin will do for Colorado what PositiveDetroit.net does for Michigan, ya know?

    She’s got a great start with her mile high character and steadfast champion style accepting her first gold medal by promoting her home state! She’s SUCH a HUGE inspiration to teens AND adults like me who are desperately seeking positive media channels that inspire and bring hope. Love this:


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