How can young people deal with content related to the war in Ukraine?

The current war in Ukraine is affecting all of us, including children and young people. The shocking and frightening content shared online can trigger many contrasting feelings. How can young people deal with war-related content? The Austrian Safer Internet Centre shares advice. 

Date 2022-04-28 Author Austrian Safer Internet Centre Section awareness, helplines Topic hate speech, media literacy/education, potentially harmful content Audience children and young people, parents and carers, teachers, educators and professionals
Photo showing the symbol of peace

Don’t be afraid to talk about it 

It’s important not to be left alone with your feelings. Share how you feel, your friends and family probably feel the same way. Together, we can often deal with negative events better. If you would like to chat, or get additional support, you can always contact the Rat auf Draht (Advice on wire) helpline at 147 in Austria. If you would like to exchange information via online messages, the chat is available Monday to Friday from 18:00 CEST to 20:00 CEST. Outside of Austria, similar national helpline services are provided. Refer to the Safer Internet Centre of your country to find more information on what services are available

A sense of community can also be supportive, and some people find it helpful to express their sympathy and solidarity through pictures or status updates on social media. 

Gather trustworthy information 

Concentrate on having a few trustworthy sources. A lot of things are being shared on social networks that are misleading and sensational. Make sure not to share such information yourself. It is often not that easy to understand what is actually happening and what that can mean. The Zeit im Bild (Time in the picture) TikTok channel, for example, attempts to explain events as clearly as possible. 

A lot of content could also be classified as propaganda, that is information that has the aim of manipulating the audience and is deliberately shared by political figures. We can all contribute to counteracting this phenomenon by not sharing such information further. 

  • Only share content from official, trusted channels (such as major news portals or trusted newspapers). 
  • Make sure to double check the source, especially if the content is particularly emotional or sensational. 
  • Report violent videos and propaganda if you spot them online. 

Take a break from media outlets 

If you see no new messages or information in your various media feeds, it is time to switch off as the content (news, pictures, videos) will just repeat itself. We all need to take breaks from information and news. 

Refrain from sharing sensitive videos 

Some content is specifically designed to spread fear or to trigger a certain reaction. This also applies to sharing disturbing videos online. Do not join the trend, and do not share content that is already upsetting to you with others. Instead, talk about how you feel about it with parents, teachers or other trusted adults, as it’s completely normal for content like this to touch you. 

Create a sense of safety 

The need for security is huge in such situations. What gives us a sense of security can vary greatly from person to person. Many people find it helpful to be hugged, or to pet their pet. Sitting on the floor, bending your knees, and then wrapping your arms around your knees and resting your head on your knees is another way to recreate this feeling. Sometimes it could also be certain smells or cuddling in a blanket. Discover what works for you to create this feeling of security. 

Achieve inner peace

When everything around you is unstable, it is important to find some peace within yourself. How can we do this? When your thoughts keep spiralling and you feel like you can't switch off, the easiest method is to just breathe.  

  • Breathing exercises. Breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, hold again for four seconds, and then start again. By counting, your brain focuses on that activity and pushes everything else to the back of your mind. 
  • Listen to a fantasy story. You can find many different options on YouTube. 
  • Calming music. Lie down comfortably and listen to calming music with one hand on your heart and the other on your stomach. Breathe consciously, let your breath become longer and longer and see your stomach rising and falling when you breathe in and out. Do this for two or three songs, or for as long as is comfortable for you. 
  • Dancing can also be helpful to release inner pressure. 
  • Walking, painting and drawing can all be relaxing activities. 

How you can help and support others  

  • When you feel powerless and like you cannot do anything to help the people affected by the conflict, it can help to donate together with others. There are many initiatives you can support if you want to. 
  • Offer to exchange ideas and reflections with friends, if that suits you. 
  • Tell you friends about the Austrian helpline Rat auf Draht, and that they can contact it at 147 and speak anonymously. 
  • If you’re not based in Austria, national helplines in other European countries can offer similar support. Find more information and contact details of the Safer Internet Centre in your country
  • Pay attention to how your younger siblings are perceiving the war. There are resources presenting the conflict in a way that is suitable for young people, such as this video

This article was originally published on the website of the Austrian helpline Rat auf Draht and is reproduced here with permission. Read the original article here.  

Find out more about the work of the Austrian Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services – or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe

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