Israel-hamas conflict

Keeping ourselves safe during difficult times


Caitlin on Nov. 22, 2023

During times of global conflict, a lot of upsetting imagery and videos can start popping up on our social media feeds. The fast pace of social media can sometimes make us feel overwhelmed by the upsetting content.

Many of us may find balancing being up-to-date and taking care of the mental health of you and your whānau (especially tamariki) really tricky.

Here are a few ways to keep you and your loved ones safe whilst navigating the content being shared online about the events unfolding in Israel and Gaza.

It’s normal to be scared and upset

Scary events are scary, it’s perfectly normal if you or your whānau feel frightened or worried. Reminding ourselves and letting our tamariki know it's normal to feel worried, confused, or anxious, helps normalise those feelings. Talking about our feelings together can make it so much easier to work through feeling overwhelmed. By being more open helps make it less tricker for us to avoid those anxious feelings becoming more overwhelming.

Listening and talking

Our young ones will have different experiences they may like to talk about with us. To support them, it’s crucial to listen, empathise and be understanding. Encourage conversations about what is going on and be transparent about your own feelings. Opening about how you are also worried can lead to surprisingly richer and deep conversation with them.

We created a resource to help whānau navigate those tricky conversations about what they’re seeing on their screens. This is great to help our young ones think critically about what they’re seeing on their devices and safely navigate online. Chat with your own trusted people as well.

It doesn’t hurt to reach out for support when you need it and check up on those who may also be going through similar experience.


When most of us wake up we are immediately connected online, and this doesn’t stop until bedtime.

Sometimes we pick up our phones without even thinking and start scrolling. Without warning, something upsetting can pop up – even if we didn’t search for it. On most platforms you can set filters to avoid the upsetting content showing up.

We’ve listed a few practical techniques that some of us in the office use that you may find useful for you and your loved ones below.

Practical techniques

  • Newsfeed cleanse – If you’re feeling like your feed or FYP is heavily focused on the conflict, follow pages that break up the content. Dive into cleantok, sports highlights, and funny trends, anything that will give you a moment to give yourself a mental break.
  • Unfollow, even if it’s temporary – It’s okay to unfollow accounts that are constantly posting upsetting material. That does not make you a bad person. Find other ways to stay updated. Have a friend tell you what is going on, get the news sent to your phone at a specific time of the day, or have set times where you do your own investigating.
  • Set social media breaks – Take breaks! Intentionally stop using your phone at set times of the day. fresh air, drink a glass of water, play a board game or go and meet some friends. Hide your phone deep in your handbag or leave it face down on the other side of the room while you have time to collect yourself and focus on being present.
  • Parental controls – Make sure your tamariki are safe with parental controls. You’re in control with Parental Controls. Our resource will point you in the right direction for your streaming provider or gaming platform, so you avoid seeing harmful content showing up on your screen.
  • Check in with yourself. How are you feeling? What is your heart rate doing? How are you feeling on a scale of happy to sad? If you’re feeling overwhelmed or having a hard day, then your mental health needs to be a priority. It’s ok to ask for help.

What to do when you see distressing content

It’s important to know what is going on but seeing and hearing things with strong cruelty, violence or death on social media - or worse, your child seeing something horrific – can be really harmful.

If you come across upsetting content online, it’s okay not to engage with it yourself. You can report that content directly to the social media platform, and you can report potentially illegal content to Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).

We encourage you to report potentially illegal content so that other people aren't also harmed by seeing it.

Further reading:

  • You’re in control with Parental Controls. Our one-stop-shop guide to parental control tools on streaming platforms, gaming, and more.
  • Keep It Real Online has practical tips and support for using social media, including more on parental controls, updating privacy settings, and where to report harmful and illegal content online.

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