“Trauma dumping” is a social media phenomenon easy to find with just a few swipes. While some internet creators think it might give them relief to broadcast their traumatic experiences to such a wide audience, the consequences are becoming very clear. Not only does it not really help the traumatized person, it can also traumatize others—including our kids.
Kids are on social media, most of the time, whether we like it or not. Even if your child just watches YouTube videos, they’re still being exposed to social media content. Children confronted with trauma dumping on social media may lack the context they need to understand it. Thus, it’s important to understand what trauma dumping is, how it can affect our children, and how we can overcome it.
What is Trauma Dumping?
An important part of recovering from trauma is to face it and process it, most helpfully with a trained professional. The problem with trauma dumping is that you might share your trauma with someone who can not help or process your experiences productively or objectively. This risks triggering someone else’s trauma.
Many social media influencers use their platforms to address mental health issues. However, unless the viewers offer solid advice or solidarity, they might just be oversharing and burdening their audience.
There’s also a difference between using a platform to address mental issues and engaging vulnerable, unsuspecting followers with unsolicited venting. For example, the creator might post content and suggest a mental health hotline. Sharing information about the hotline and possibly a line like, “I’ve been there, and it’s not easy,” isn’t a bad thing. However, if your child engages in the comments repeatedly (or sends a private message sharing their own experiences), they may become further triggered. Depending on the feedback, this can lead to serious and more harmful thought patterns.
How it hurts your child’s emotional development
Young minds are already highly influenced by social media. Now, research is slowly showing that kids are incorrectly learning that trauma dumping is a natural and appropriate natural part of coping. It’s an unhealthy paradigm that could have serious consequences for their emotional growth and future relationships.
Children and teens, whose capacity for empathy is still developing, should not be expected to repeatedly shoulder other people’s trauma in the process. Particularly if they have their own to work through. Their ability to correctly balance what is and isn’t their emotional responsibility may be compromised.
Overcoming Trauma Dumping
Trauma dumping is a growing problem but not one that you can’t help your child recognize, avoid, and overcome.
Prioritize reflection over attention
Trauma dumping online is something people do to summon sympathy. Of course, it isn’t wrong to seek sympathy. In fact, it’s very normal. However, telling and re-telling an unsuspecting audience about trauma does not examine trauma productively.
Processing trauma requires reflection and introspection. Sharing, especially with young people, is best done when healing is progress or even complete. Teach your child to be wary of those who dump traumatic experiences on social media as their goal may not be to share or seek support but boost views.
Remain involved in your child’s online life
Help your child stop and think before becoming drawn in emotionally. If they feel attached to a certain Tik Tok creator or YouTuber, ask questions, and discuss what they’ve seen. Talk about the benefits of reaching out to a trusted friend or professional as opposed to subjecting themselves to the comments sections of their posts. Reinforce that you are available to help them process trauma and available to help in person if they are hurting too.
Seek Help from a Therapist
A trauma-informed therapist is key if you find that your child is triggered by trauma dumping. If they are reliant on such social media to cope with their own pain, time away from screens is vital. Building a relationship with a trained professional can help you and your child learn which tools lead to lasting recovery.