Jul 6, 2023 - Podcasts

How witnessing daily gun violence affects kids

This Fourth of July long weekend saw about 17 mass shootings in the U.S., according to the Gun Violence Archive. At least 18 people were killed and more than 100 injured, many of them children and teens. But direct involvement in shootings is not the only way gun violence harms U.S. kids.

Guests: Axios’ Ina Fried, The Guardian's Abené Clayton and Bentley University's Dr. Traci Abbott.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Thursday, July 6.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Today: Meta tries to edge out Twitter. And, some mystery summer reading.

But first, how daily gun violence near schools affects kids. That’s today’s One Big Thing.

NIALA: This 4th of July long weekend saw some 17 mass shootings in the U.S. according to the gun violence archive with at least 18 people killed and more than 100 injured. Many of those were children and teens.

We hear alot about school shootings and the trauma it causes…But what about children exposed to daily gun violence just outside their school doors?

The Guardian’s Abene Clayton has been reporting on this - and she based her reporting on her hometown of Richmond, California. Hi Abene! So can we start by looking at this by the numbers in Richmond. How often are young kids hearing or seeing gun violence?

ABENE CLAYTON: For 2013 to 2022, there were about 2300 shooting incidents in Richmond. Of those 40% happened near a K through 12 campus. Of the shootings that happened near a school, 80% of those schools were elementary. So most of the shootings that happened near a school happened near an elementary school. These kids end up being traumatized, they can have you know, really difficult time regulating and managing their emotions because the anxiety that comes with hearing gunshots, that comes from seeing vigils, it makes it difficult for them to focus on school. And a lot of the times those trauma responses are billed as defiant or “a kid just being bad.” And then you have some students who respond to trauma by kind of internalizing everything. You know, they may not really speak about what's going on, but they also might start to exhibit antisocial behaviors. You know, they may not be as in engaged or talkative in classes they may have been before they, they witnessed something tragic.

NIALA: And this exposure in this trauma dot just happen from kids who see or hear these things directly.

ABENE: No, absolutely not. as one researcher described it, seeing or hearing or witnessing an act of violence is just the tip of the iceberg of exposure. You know, you come out of your home or you walk to school and all of a sudden there's a police car parked out front, hearing your classmates talk about what they've seen, seeing them, with t-shirts that have images of their murdered loved ones on it that is a type of exposure that, is often overlooked, but nonetheless can impact the mental and physical wellbeing of children.

NIALA: Albany, what did you hear in your reporting from the adults in these children's lives, especially those who are interacting with them on a daily basis at their schools?

ABENE: One thing that was a kind of common denominator among everyone was just, they didn't know exactly what to say or to offer to a student who may have come in and said, “hey, I heard gunshots like a bullet flew through my window, or like, my cousin just got shot”. And teachers have said that they will offer students soundproof headphones, give them a chance to nap or even run a lap outside, just so they can bring their emotional state down a bit.

NIALA: So what did experts say to you about how adults should be helping children cope with this, besides, of course, stopping the violence itself?

ABENE: Tackling gun violence exposure isn't necessarily something that teachers should have to take on. It's something that districts should look to community members who understand the trauma, who know the areas and can offer all sorts of healing modalities from just taking them to garden to just having like a circle where they all share their stories of whatever may have happened over the weekend. Creating these safe spaces for kids to share and process their feelings with somebody who ideally looks like them and has a similar background and also has a level of training that allows them to intercede when when traumatic moments happen. But unfortunately, in so many communities like Richmond's, the doors of the school kind of remain closed to a lot of people who, who wish they could help. So that was really striking to me to hear from so many experts.

NIALA: Abene Clayton is a reporter on the Guardians Guns and Lies in America Project. Thanks Abene.

ABENE: Thank you so much.

In a moment, Meta’s new Threads app – and why it matters.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Last night, Meta launched its rival app to Twitter – called Threads.

It’s a text based conversation app tied to your Instagram account – meaning you can keep the same username and followers. And it dropped just as backlash is intensifying over Elon Musk's handling of Twitter.

Axios’ Ina Fried is here with what this competition means for the social media apps. Hey Ina.

INA FRIED: Hi Niala.

NIALA: Ina, so over the weekend, Elon Musk announced Twitter had implemented daily limits on the number of posts users can view, which sparked an uproar…Did this factor into the timing of Meta releasing Threads?

INA: I definitely think there's been urgency within Meta that if they're gonna do this, this is the opportune moment. And Elon basically gift wrapped their launch for them by making Twitter even more unusable than it had already become.

NIALA: So what do we know so far about Threads?

INA: So Twitter's features are super easy to clone. It's not a very intense service. What's hard is getting that network effect, getting the people you want there, and that's where Meta has an advantage that none of the other Twitter rivals have had. So all the others have basically been trying to build from scratch, which is a very tall order in social media. Meta on the other hand, is building off Instagram, which already has a huge network of people and the people they follow.

NIALA: So Ina, given that some people are calling Threads a Twitter killer, what are the expectations on how this platform will perform and how many people have already left Twitter?

INA: Well, it's hard to say how many people have totally left. I think a lot of people are using it a lot less, and a lot of people are open to something else, and that's what's created this big opening. I think Meta is a serious rival for a couple of reasons we've talked about. The fact that they already have this network effect, but they also have a really big advertising business, and that's an area where Twitter has struggled. Whereas Meta comes at this, they already have relationships. They already have very good ad technology. So I think this is a very serious threat all around.

NIALA: They also have a lot of people who complain about Meta’s privacy violations, and there are critics who pointed out that Threads requires extensive permissions and a willingness to share a great deal of data. Are there any benefits to leaving one of these apps to go to another, especially when we think about privacy.

INA: That is probably the biggest challenge for Meta is these other rivals to Twitter brought the fact that they weren't run by a billionaire. That they were more grassroots, they were trying to be more inclusive, they were trying to be less corporate. And so Meta, that's the big strike against them, is basically if you don't like Elon, you're trading one billionaire for another. Meta's, certainly not known for treating its users' privacy with great care. So some of the people who wanted to leave Twitter don't necessarily want to leave Twitter for a Mark Zuckerberg property.

NIALA: What would you say to all the people listening, thinking, I don't care about Meta or Twitter, this is just for a handful of people in the world. Does this really matter?

INA: I think Twitter serves an important purpose and it's not a universal one, but I think it has been very important as a place for when news is happening where people affected can share their observations, their reactions, and that requires a great deal of scale.

And obviously Twitter, there's a lot more than that on there. There's plenty that we don't maybe like or love, but when you think of the Arab Spring, when you think of democracy movements around the world, you want people to have that place. Whether Meta can produce a rival place or not, I'm not sure.

NIALA: Ina Fried is Axios chief technology correspondent, author of Axios Login newsletter. Thanks, Ina.

INA: Thanks Niala.

NIALA: Finally today: another recommendation from our summer reading series – Dr. Traci Abbott is an Associate Professor of English and Media Studies at Bentley University who’s joined us on the show, and for a fun mystery beach read, she says look to the Vera Kelly series…by author Rosalie Knecht.

TRACI ABBOTT: It's amazing. First she's a spy and then she's a detective and she's a lesbian in the sixties and early seventies. And it's really kind of cool the way they, they sort of integrate that because it plays off of, I teach the talented Mr. Ripley the novel,

it's this idea that, that when they were closeted, they're so good at playing roles, it makes her an excellent spy. And she like actually meets another spy who turns out to be a gay man. And I thought that was really clever. Those are some of my favorite books that I've been reading lately that I highly recommend.

And that’s all we’ve got for you today! I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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