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Family 411: Children try navigating through the social media world

13-year-old Natalie Heater and her 7-year-old brother, Gavin, each navigate their own virtual playgrounds. (WSYX/WTTE)

The digital playground can be a scary place for kids.

But experts say parents can help children navigate questions or feelings of anxiety.

"With the whole Manchester thing I actually had a friend text me when that was happening then I started going through my Instagram feeds that really upset me," said Natalie Heater.

13-year-old Natalie Heater and her 7-year-old brother, Gavin, each navigate their own virtual playgrounds.

"Instagram, Snapchat are her big go-to's," said Natalie's mom, Amanda Heater.

Traumatic videos, like the Ariana Grande concert bombing, hit home for Natalie.

"That really hit personally for her because we've been to concerts and she's that age," said Heater.

OhioHealth psychiatrist Megan Schabbing says viewing extended footage of tragedies can bring on stress at any age.

"For instance the Oklahoma City Bombings both children and adults in some cases were found to have developed anxiety and PTSD like symptoms," said Dr. Schabbing.

Dr. Schabbing recommends starting a conversation about it right away.

"How did that make you feel do you have any questions about what happened," said Dr. Schabbing.

Amanda Heater says she keeps the discussion with Natalie and Gavin short and simple to keep anxiety from building especially with her youngest.

"He's constantly thinking about things and worrying a lot," said Heater.

Warning signs for anxiety can include social withdrawal and disruption in sleep.

"There can be inappropriate guilt or low self-esteem," said Dr. Schabbing.

Dr. Schabbing says early therapy helps alleviate mental health issues down the road.

"Sometimes that can even prevent full blown PTSD later," said Dr. Schabbing.

While the Heaters have an open door policy. Passwords and access are under close watch.

Protections both at home and outside their comfort zone.

"You just kind of you can't be afraid to live your life but at the same time be very cautious," said Natalie Heater.

Dr. Schabbing says it's important that parents are always aware of what children are viewing on technology and that therapeutic intervention can be with your pediatrician.

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