Posted by: Dr. Justin D'Arienzo, Psy.D., ABPP
Generation Lockdown: How are kids being affected by active shooter drills in school?
Do Active Shooter and Intruder Drills Cause Increased Anxiety?
Children and parents are beginning to report that children are experiencing anxiety, fear, and trauma as a result of school based active shooter drills. Although there has been insufficient time for psychologists to research reliably whether this occurs, it is probable that for some children practicing these drills causes them anxiety or unnecessary worry. My own children have already corrected me that these drills are no longer termed active shooter drills but intruder drills to cover the many types of events that could occur when a dangerous person enters school grounds.
Which Children are Most Affected by these Drills?
Children that have active imaginations or who already have a history of anxiety or ruminating, or who have parents and teachers who may overemphasize the likelihood of an active shooter entering their school, may be traumatized by these drills. For most kids, these drills will not adversely affect them.
Should Intruder Drills Continue?
Further, these drills will have a positive affect for most children and the adults who provide their safety as they will become more aware of their surroundings in all surroundings and lessen the tendency to diffuse responsibility if one sees something concerning. I recommend that these drills continue but children are also told that them experiencing something this horrific is highly unlikely and that they are safe at school. I was fortunate to be able to share my psychological expertise in this news story both as a psychologist and a parent.
What Do You Do If Your Child Experiences Anxiety from Intruder Drills?
If your child is experiencing anxiety or increased fears due to these drills consider speaking to the school psychologist, school counselor, or consider consulting with a local psychologist in independent practice.
Thank you Anthony Austin at First Coast News for including us in your story.