16 May 2024

Wellbeing - Managing distressing content

Article by Written by the Student Wellbeing Team

Wellbeing - Managing distressing content


This day and age, we live in a very complex and forever evolving world. Technology and social media is all around us; on our TVS, portable devices, mobile phones, work life, school and within our communities. As we have seen in recent months, there have been tragic events that have saturated news outlets and social media platforms, The volume and heaviness of these issues to date can cause an array of feelings such as anxiety or confusion for our teens, which is why it is so important to be open and communicate with our young people in efforts to keep our children safe and protected from distressing content.

Everyone responds differently to disturbing or unacceptable content which is why it is important to ensure that we are monitoring young people's internet usage and establishing barriers to ensure that our young people are not at risk.


The over consumption of negative content can contribute to significant changes in mood in young people, leading to possible feelings of anxiety and overall decreases of mood. In addition bad news can contribute to altered thought patterns. This means the more negative news or tragic events that are televised to us the more likely we are to only remember the negative or draw more attention to these thoughts in our brains, therefore potentially minimising the impact of positive stories or news items that are reported to us. This is why it is so important to ensure that our teens are supported and provide them with strategies that will help them to cope with distressing content.

Distressing content can present in many forms for example:

Illegal content: This may show, describe or encourage violent crimes or behaviour.

Violent content: This may include images or stories of harm to an individual.

Inappropriate age content: This can include images and material that is unsuitable for that age group.

This content may also make young people feel:

  • Afraid or unsafe

  • Hopeless

  • Confused

  • Pressured

  • Isolated

  • Overwhelmed

  • Unable to switch off or stop scrolling.

Online safety key strategies:

It is important that we help and provide guidance to our young people, when they are navigating their digital world. Young people, especially teenagers spend a lot of time online, as it can be a helpful way to keep in contact with their peers, friends and family when they are not physically with them. To assist with positive online engagement, parents are encouraged to:

1. Be engaged, supportive, curious and open.

2. Set age-appropriate rules in conversation with your young person.

3. Role model positive use of technology

4. Stay informed and reach out for help


Stay open and talk frequently with your child

It is important that you continue to stay open and frequently talk with your child about the content that they are consuming online and in the news – especially if you are aware they are exposed to material that they may find distressing.

It is particularly important to ensure that you are engaging in an open and supportive conversation. Encourage your young person to connect with you about anything they want to. Being encouraging and supportive will allow for your young person to feel connected to you and supported by you.

Ask questions

It is also important to ask questions. Asking your child how they feel and what they are comfortable consuming online will help you to get a better understanding of what they are currently exposed to. If they are currently having any issues online, prompt with open questions to them will show them that you care and are interested in maintaining their health and wellbeing.

Seek additional help if needed

If you are feeling overwhelmed or confused about how to move forward with these topics, or think it would be beneficial for your young person to seek further support, we encourage your child to contact our Student Wellbeing team at St Ignatius College or parents are encouraged to seek advice from Parentline at 13 22 89 or the Esafety Commissioner: https://www.esafety.gov.au/


Use parent controls, in conversation with your young person

They are a tool that allows you to monitor and limit what your young person sees online. They can be set through your home WIFI or on your child’s personal device. This tool allows you to have some control over the content that your young person is consuming, whilst also ensuring that the content they do have access to is age appropriate and will not contribute further to potential adverse effects.

Features of parent controls that can be particularly useful are:

  • Filtering:

This function allows you to isolate ‘adult content’, as well as other types of content that may portray violent behaviour and so on. This allows you to have some control over what your child is consuming online. This shows your young person that you are concerned about their wellbeing and are making efforts to ensure they feel safe and supported online.

  • Set time frames:

Setting time frames on devices such as laptops, mobile phones etc ensures that your young person isn’t stuck ‘scrolling’ for hours at night. This cycle can be very damaging to their sleep cycles and a habit that is difficult to break. Setting a time frame on their devices will ensure that they are getting enough sleep needed for their bodies to be adequately rested and restored for the next day.

Additionally, constant notifications, messages and pressure to always be ‘up to date’ with social media can be very exhausting and potentially anxiety inducing for teens. Setting a time frame will allow them to rest their eyes and mind.

For more information on parental controls please head to.


Written by the Student Wellbeing Team