BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Heavy gunfire and piercing screams can be heard in nearly all of the videos of a horrific mass shooting as a gunman went on a shooting rampage at a Florida high school Wednesday.
Most of the videos are hard to watch. In one video, students can be seen hiding behind desks while outside, others are sent running for their lives. The traumatic ordeal is certainly terrifying for those who survived it, but because of social media, chances are local kids have seen these videos and could be struggling as well.
"They may not get the response they need and so they may end up turning to social media and turning to their friends and getting responses that they want, but maybe don't need," Stephen Aguillard, clinical service director for Capital Area Human Services.
With 17 people killed, at least 13 more injured, and a former student allegedly behind it all, many parents may not know how best to explain yet another senseless tragedy to their kids. Aguillard recommends parents start slow and ask questions to let the children drive the conversation. "Ask your kids what are you seeing? What are they experiencing and what are their emotions like," said Aguillard.
Some kids may process the tragedy differently and Aguillard says parents should help them express their feelings while the incident is still fresh. He says the worst thing parents can do is let their kids work it out on their own. "I think the time to have the conversation is now and tomorrow and the next day, but I wouldn't hold off," said Aguillard.
Social worker, Velda Wiltz, has helped kids at Family Services of Greater Baton Rouge for years and says a great way to explain the tragic event is to stick to the facts and point out positives. She stresses the key is to let kids know that the danger is over.
"You could start with the fact that so many people were saved and that the law enforcement did such a fantastic job," advised Wiltz. "The key with that is making sure that the children are aware that that shooter has been apprehended and that he can no longer harm anyone. That in and of itself gives a lot of safety and security to the child."
Another tip Wiltz passes along is to follow up after the conversation and monitor kids for signs of stress or fear. She says perhaps the best thing parents can do though is if they need help, to not be afraid to ask. "Recognize that it's okay," she said. "It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you. It's just a safe place to process those feelings."
Anyone interested in seeking professional help to talk with their kids about the topic can contact either agency to set up an appointment.