Is your teen becoming desensitized to violence?

Following the Florida school shooting and other recent tragedies, NewsCenter 16 wants to know: Are teens becoming desensitized to violence?

"I think there's a strong possibility because the world has been become increasingly violent," said Dr. Erin Leonard, a Mishawaka-based psychotherapist.

Local teens recently interviewed by NewsCenter 16 testify to being desensitized.

“A lot of adults forget that our generation, everyone in this room, was a toddler when 9/11 happened...We lived in this age where terrorism is common," said a female student.

“Violence, period, is common,” added her classmate.

Every day, Leonard says teens are exposed to violence on the news, social media, and in things they hear at school, which can lead to desensitization.

"What really, I think, tips the scale for teens and becoming desensitized is if they don’t have anyone to talk about what they see and the material stays with them, and they start having intrusive thoughts, and they can't really digest the material on their own," explained Leonard.

That's why she recommends parents talk to their teens and kids, particularly their children who are having trouble processing what happened.

"At those times, the teen really needs help processing what they saw so they don’t have to kind of resurrect a defense mechanism like desensitization," Leonard said.

Leonard adds parents should be concerned if their children eventually do not show some sort of emotion after a tragic event. However, she believes it is okay if a child or teen initially is shocked or in disbelief.

Could my child or teen hurt someone?
Dr. Leonard lists four warning signs of children who might act violently:
1. Isolating behavior
2. Lacks empathy
3. Victim mentality
4. Likes to seek revenge

In Chapter Two of Dr. Leonard's new book , How to Raise a Secure Child, Parenting with Empathy, she shares advice on how parents can talk to their children about terrorism. Leonard also guides parents on how to help their kids when they have been exposed to violent material.