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For Xgens and millennials, the internet has been a place for people to overshare through Facebook location “check-ins” and Instagram posts chronicling every detail of their latest vacations. Some Gen Z’s, in contrast, have turned casual oversharing into something much darker – publicly sharing stories of trauma for internet clout. To monitor and ensure your child is not sharing their deepest, darkest secrets on TikTok, check out our GKIS Screen Safety Essentials Course. This course provides you access to all GKIS parenting courses, agreements, and supplements to teach your kids independent resilience and good coping skills, all of which work to build a positive parent-child partnership and avoid a digital injury.

What is “trauma dumping”?

Trauma dumping is when a person overshares difficult information with another person without their consent.[1] Trauma dumping for content is done when a person constantly talks about a traumatic experience, even sometimes going so far as to recreate or reenact the traumatic incident online.[2]

Tramadumpers typically do not consider their impact on viewers and are not seeking advice.[1] The sharing often occurs in inappropriate places and times to someone who cannot understand and process someone else’s trauma.[3]

How does trauma dumping differ from venting?

Trauma dumping differs from venting because venting is the release of pent-up emotions rather than details of traumatic experiences.[2] When venting, a person is more mindful of the other person’s boundaries and how much they should share. Venting is an ordinary action people take to blow off steam, while trauma dumping is a potentially harmful action.

Why is sharing trauma for views and likes problematic?

Sharing or posting about a personal experience is not inherently wrong. But when you are sharing about it on social media often, it can become a maladaptive coping mechanism, meaning that instead of reducing the effect of a traumatic event on one’s mental health, you instead cause more harm and increase long-term stress.[4]

How Viewing Trauma Dumping Affects Viewers

The TikTok hashtags #trauma and #traumatok have a combined total of more than 22.5 billion views. As of 2023, Tiktok has 1.53 billion users, meaning that videos with the aforementioned hashtags have been viewed more times than there are users on the app.[5]

I asked a frequent TikTok user to recount her experience viewing a #traumatok video. She shared, “I was scrolling through my TikTok For You Page and saw a video a girl shared of her last conversation with her mother before her mother passed away from Covid-19. It made me feel sad, and I thought about it pretty often throughout the day. I told my friend about it later, and she said she had seen it too and it made her cry. Her dad passed away from Covid-19, and it hit home for her and reminded her of her dad’s passing. I can’t imagine seeing that kind of content as an 11-year-old or something.”

Constantly consuming distressing online content and news is called doom-scrolling. This phenomenon causes despair in the viewer and can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety. Some studies have found that watching trauma content on social media (especially violent content) can cause viewers to experience post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.[6] If your child may have consumed violent content on social media and is struggling to cope, please check our GKIS article, “Helping Your Children Cope with Stress and Tragedy” for help.

Viewers of trauma content can also inadvertently desensitize themselves. By viewing a trauma dump video and then scrolling to a happy or neutral video, they can prevent themselves from feeling the full impact of the content and thus are conditioning themselves to not adequately process traumatic content.[6] Through viewing traumatic content, viewers may inadvertently open themselves up to their own traumas. To learn more about doom-scrolling, see our GKIS article, “Doom-Scrolling: How Much Bad News Can We Take?

What Parents Can Do

Preventing children from viewing #traumatok content is critical to ensure your child does not suffer from a digital injury.

Keep your child safe by:

  • Limiting and monitoring your child’s only content using our GKIS Screen Safety Toolkit. This resource helps you set parental controls and smart tools created to filter content and manage online behavior.
  • Keep the conversation going using our free GKIS Connected Family Agreement. By having regular discussions and co-viewing your child’s content, the learning continues both ways.
  • Preparing your children for social media usage through our GKIS Social Media Readiness Course. This course will help your child stay safe from digital injury and prepare them to “get social.”

Like what you read? Check out our GKIS articles “Our Youth Mental Health Emergency” and “Millennials, Gen Z, and the Internet: Generational Divides”.

Thanks to CSUCI intern, Katherine Carroll for Trauma Dumping and its harmful effects.

I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe.

Onward to More Awesome Parenting,

Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty

Works Cited

[1] Thurrott, S. You Think You’re Venting, but You Might Be Trauma Dumping. (2022). Banner Health. https://www.bannerhealth.com/healthcareblog/teach-me/venting-or-trauma-dumping

[2] Molina, O. Trauma Dumping: The Signs & Effects of Oversharing Trauma. (2023). Talk Space. https://www.talkspace.com/blog/trauma-dumping/

[3] Trauma Dumping 101: What It Is, and Why It Hurts. (2023). Family Zone. https://www.familyzone.com/anz/families/blog/trauma-dumping-and-why-it-hurts

[4] DeWitt, H. What are unhealthy coping mechanisms, and how do they affect me? (2022). ThriveWorks. https://thriveworks.com/help-with/coping-skills/unhealthy-coping-mechanisms/#:~:text=Maladaptive%2C%20or%20unhealthy%2C%20coping%20mechanisms,stress%20in%20the%20long%20term.

[5] Ruby, D. TikTok Statistics 2023 — (Users, Revenue and Trends). (2023). Demand Sage. https://www.demandsage.com/tiktok-user-statistics/#:~:text=TikTok%20Statistics%202023%20

[6] Revell, J. How Seeing War and Disaster Unfold in Real-Time Across Social Media Impacts Our Mental Health. (2022). The Latch.

Photo Credits

Photo by Danie Franco (https://unsplash.com/photos/7KHCNCddn2U)

Photo by Claudia Wolff (https://unsplash.com/photos/owBcefxgrIE)

Photo by Jonas Leupe (https://unsplash.com/photos/7KHCNCddn2U)

Photo by Sofatutor (https://unsplash.com/photos/ec3SJoypVKM)

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