Parents warned to shield children from graphic war content on TikTok, Instagram

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Parents have been told to consider deleting their child’s TikTok and Instagram accounts to reduce potential exposure to violent extremist content, as Hamas vowed to publicly broadcast Israeli hostages being executed.

Jewish schools in Sydney this week sent messages to students’ parents to be vigilant regarding children’s online exposure, while Jewish Care Victoria posted online instructions to parents about how to talk to children about the war in Israel and distressing images online.

Families gather at Dover Heights in Sydney on Wednesday night for a Jewish vigil supporting Israel.Credit: Wolter Peeters

“We know it can feel impossible – but we also know that children notice what is happening around them, and look to the adults in their lives to help make sense of it and feel safe,” it said.

Dr Dvir Abramovich, Anti-Defamation Commission chair, is also advising parents to remove or disable social media apps such as TikTok and Instagram from their children’s phones and electronic devices.

“These platforms are dangerous. Kids simply do not have the proper tools and capacity to properly understand and absorb such violent and upsetting materials.”

The move has the backing of child psychologists and cybersafety experts and comes after Jewish schools in New York also instructed parents to delete social media apps.

Cybersafety expert Susan McLean said social media companies did not necessarily block extremist videos from being posted.

Parents are being asked to consider deleting their children’s social media apps.Credit: Wolter Peeters

“It will get out before it gets removed … If it gets out there and then the pro-Palestinian groups are just going to keep reposting it, that would be my fear,” she said.

McLean urged parents to do what they think was necessary for their family.

“If you think disabling social media and keeping children off it is the right thing for you, that is what you should be doing,” she said.

“The targeted harm to Jewish people is going to be very different to a non-Jewish people.”

Melbourne mother Naomi Levin, who has children aged eight and 10, said she was monitoring what her children were consuming on social media.

“The pictures we are seeing from this conflict are really some of the most unimaginable images you could possibly see,” she said.

“Jewish schools have been sending advisory notes to their parents to say they should be deleting apps from their kids’ phones at least for the duration of the conflict.

“The impact on those children, their psychological wellbeing could be long term.”

The King David School principal Marc Light alerted parents in Melbourne to the “proliferation of very disturbing and graphic material that has been circulating on social media in relation to the current situation in Israel”.

“I encourage parents to monitor their children’s social media use at this time and to take steps to protect them,” he said.

The United Jewish Education Board will tomorrow host an event instructing parents on how they can support students and themselves during the war.

Child psychologist Rose Cantali supported parents deleting apps on their child’s phone.

“There has been a whole lot of stuff in the media which has been distressing for even adults. Adults know their limitations. But young people don’t,” she said.

Cantali said many young people were distressed about what they had seen.

“I have had a lot of kids talk about it today and yesterday. Not going into social media is a good idea, especially for the ones already suffering anxiety and depression, it could cause them further distress.”

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