When Kids are Exposed to Distressing Online Content

It may be very difficult for us to understand what possessed a man to shoot and kill 50 people in the attacks on two Christchurch mosques, but due to his abhorrent use of a livestream on social media, many New Zealanders and others around the world were exposed to this atrocious act in a way that we may never, ever forget.

If children or young people have been exposed to the footage, they can be upset or confused about what they may have seen. Netsafe offer some helpful information for parents on helping young people who have been exposed to upsetting content.

Will my child be in trouble if they saw the footage?

Your child may have accidentally come across footage of the attack online, or it might have been shared with them by someone they know – they may even have sought the footage out through curiousity.

Footage of the attacks as well as the gunman’s manifesto have been deemed objectionable under New Zealand law. Therefore, it is an offence to have possession of the content or to distribute it. While several people have been reportedly charged with offences relating to the content, if your child has accidentally viewed the footage they are unlikely to be charged with an offence. However, they must not share it with others, nor save it on their device. It is important that they are able to come forward and talk about what they have seen and their feelings surrounding that without fear of prosecution, for their own wellbeing.

If you, or someone you know, has viewed the footage and needs to talk to someone, please contact, Need to Talk, or text 1737.

Netsafe advise that:

If you find footage of the attacks or links to the terrorist’s document online you should report it to Netsafe via our online report form but you should not keep copies or share it. Please ensure you include a URL link as part of your report so we can act to get the content removed. If you see content that you believe indicates that you or another person is in danger or a crime is being committed, call the Police on 111 immediately.

What should I do if my child has seen the footage?

As with any distressing content online, if your child wishes to talk about something they have seen online, Netsafe offer these tips:

  • Avoid blame about how they came across the content
  • Reassure them that it isn’t their fault
  • Don’t trivialise it by saying that it may be fake
  • Provide comfort and assurance
  • Acknowledge their feelings, ie  ‘It’s normal to be scared’
  • Taking away the technology may mean that they are less likely to come to you if something else happens
  • Tell them you are glad that they came to you about it
  • Seek professional help for your child if intense feelings or behaviours persist

her world julieWritten by Julie Scanlon

Julie is Editor for Kidspot NZ and our MVP. Her hobbies include laughing uncontrollably at her own jokes, annoying her family by asking questions about movie plots, and never taking anything too seriously. She speaks a little Spanish and a lot of Yorkshire. 

Favourite motto to live by: “It ain’t nothing but a thing”


  1. kymmage 31/03/2019 at 10:50 pm

    I am so glad my kids are too young to have access to Facebook. With the recent Momo thing we have already been talking about inappropriate things on the Internet and what to do if they see something bad. They know to turn it off and come get us. But our youngest doesn’t always see the cutesy cartoon as bad either… So I have caught her watching something with adult themes but looking super kawaii.

  2. dawnblyth 31/03/2019 at 10:28 pm

    Our ten year old did not see it and neither did our 4 year old. We were very lucky. I had heard there were a lot of teenagers at high school who were watching the event while in lockdown. Access to social media and cell phones is part of our daily life now and it how we navigate this journey is going to be the biggest learning curve for us all.

  3. SarahBlair 31/03/2019 at 10:11 pm

    As far as I know my kids haven’t seen it (Im not sure that my two adult kids would tell me if they had) but the son of my husbands good friend was shown it at school by an older kid, of course his dad is fuming and the poor little guy was very traumatised, he’s only 11.

  4. Alezandra 29/03/2019 at 9:41 pm

    You never know that you need this guided article till something like this happens. It’s good to have it handy be aware of things like this that the media proliferates – especially in social media – it’s too easy now. Images, videos, gifs, memes you name it. Kids are too exposed now.

  5. Bevik1971 27/03/2019 at 9:58 am

    Thankfully no one in my family saw any of these horrific events online 🙁 I wouldn’t watch it even if it popped up in front of me. So saddened by these events, but also uplifted by the spirit of NZ 🙂

  6. Mands1980 26/03/2019 at 1:44 pm

    I’m so glad my children did not see this and neither did I but I heard the radio station saying that they had seen part of it and advising people not to watch it if it pops up on your screens as it was so horrific. It is such a horrible situation for it to have even been filmed.

  7. MuddledUpMolly 26/03/2019 at 12:00 pm

    Thankfully our son did not see the footage and neither did we, thankfully! This is an awful time for our country and for the poor victims of this disgusting crime 🙁

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