Protecting children from the trauma of gun violence, racism

The nation’s pediatricians are launching new efforts to help their young patients avoid being traumatized by gun violence and racism. In July 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued recommendations to shield children from media violence, and called on policymakers and the entertainment industry to address the proven link between virtual and real violence. They also announced a new campaign including education, advocacy, and changes in clinical practice to address broad issues of violence and intolerance in the U.S.

The initiatives come in the wake of the shootings of black men by police in Minnesota and Louisiana, followed by retaliatory killings of police in Texas and Louisiana.

In a July 18, 2016 STAT article in the Boston Globe about the AAP’s new efforts, Jack Shonkoff, Julius P. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the university-wide Center on the Developing Child, said that “toxic stress” caused by racism and violence can negatively impact children’s learning, behavior, and health. Even if children are not directly involved in violence, they can become stressed or fearful by watching current events on television or by noticing that a parent is worried.

This sort of “toxic stress” can affect brain development, the cardiovascular system, the immune system, metabolic regulation, and mental health, Shonkoff said. “We’re jeopardizing children’s lifelong health,” he said.

Read the STAT article: Pediatricians take on new role: Fighting the bigotry and violence that hurts kids

Learn more

Chronic stress takes a toll on the young (Harvard Chan School news)