Trigger Warnings Trigger Debate

Jaqueline Arechiga

Throughout the web and in several
types of media one may see in
all caps, “WARNING” followed by
some type of sentence about sensitive
material that could be seen as
something called a “trigger”.
Triggers are things that have the
potential to cause instant distress in
vulnerable people, because they depict
strong images or writing about
subjects such as violence, kidnapping
and abuse. Although these warnings
are meant to fend off sensitive individuals,
they might be having the opposite
“On Vine, there are certain videos
that start off with a warning
that the video may be inappropriate
for younger users,” junior Hannah
Thompson said, “but due to human
curiosity this just makes people want
to view them more.”
Although trigger warnings are
meant to protect people, they might
be sparking more interest than if
they were treated like any other material.
As these trigger warnings continue
to be plastered all over social
media, trigger warnings also tend to
appear in school. An example of this
would be at the University of Michigan
where trigger warnings must
be used for racially offensive book
passages. At the University level,
students are already over the age of
18 and are therefore not considered
The question that arises from this
is, when are students responsible and
mature enough to take in sensitive
material as is and not be affected psychologically
or emotionally. Some
students argue that high school students
should be treated as adults, be
warned of the material, but need not
be protected from it altogether.
On the other side of the argument,
some feel as though high school students,
especially those under the
age of 18, are not mature
enough or
c a p a b l e
o f
some of the material
that could be considered suggestive
in and outside the classroom.
“People develop at different
rates, both physically and mentally,”
Thompson said, “The fact of the
matter is most high schoolers do not
have the maturity needed to take
this seriously and actually use it to
their benefit. It would be wiser to let
the parents be the ones to make the
call on what are appropriate topics
for school.”
“I think that parents, students,
and administrators should trust the
judgment of educators when it comes
to selecting appropriate materials for
our classrooms,” Frannie McMillan,
an English teacher, said “That information
is being presented in a controlled
environment with a specific
purpose in mind. I like to think that
teaching them to analyze uncomfortable
moments in literature gives my
students the skills to deal with difficult
situations in the real world.”
As for the effectiveness of trigger
warnings, people are still on the
fence if they are fulfilling their purpose,
whether it is through social
media or in school.
“I don’t want to see such warnings
go away because I do think they
serve a valid purpose and preparing
viewers and giving parents the
chance to take younger children out
of the room or change the channel,”
McMillan said.
And as always, there’s the other
side of the argument.
“I don’t believe they’re necessary.
I think they are just used for liability
reasons; so the owners of the websites
are not responsible if someone with a
mental health disorder harms themselves
due to one of their posts,” senior
Breland Edwards said, “[when it
comes to trigger warnings in school]
high schoolers need to be exposed to
sensitive material before going off to
college. If they are not, the transition
may be too much to handle.”
So whether or not the effectiveness
is worth putting them in, trigger
warnings will most likely not be going
away anytime soon.


Author: The Hawk Eye

Hanover High School, Mechanicsville, Virginia The Hawk Eye Student Newspaper

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