San Francisco Jewish school warns of social media content depicting Hamas attacks

A San Francisco Jewish high school is advising parents to consider limiting their children's social media usage to avoid graphic images stemming from the Hamas attacks on Israel.

"As we navigate this painful and unprecedented time of terrorism and trauma in Israel, [the Jewish Community High School of the Bay] is focused on supporting and caring for our students," the school said in a letter to parents Wednesday.

The school feared students would see a flood of disturbing content related to the violence that has killed at least 1,600 people


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The school has encouraged students to reduce their time on social media and prioritize self-care.

"Those images are searing and can be paralyzing," said Rabbi Howard Jacoby Reuben. "We don't want anyone to put their head in the sand and ignore what's going on, rather, we just want adults and student together to be in conversation about how much of this you can take at one time." 

School staff recommend that parents discuss with their children whether to delete social media apps, even if temporary, to prevent excessive exposure to the images depicting the horrors of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

"It could be a fire hose of horror, and then it becomes too traumatic," Rabbi Reunben said.

Already, the Jewish school community has been in mourning. A parent lost a nephew and a student lost a cousin to the war in Israel, Reuben said. And alumni are actively serving in the Israeli military. 

The gruesome online videos and content just add to the anxiety, mental health experts say.

"Watching a lot of graphic images can create this vicarious trauma," said school psychologist Rebecca Branstetter. "You don't just give unfettered access to social media and expect kids to be able to have the cognitive and emotional resources to process it."

Brandstetter said the younger the child, the higher the risk of trauma or anxiety. She encourages parents to be monitors and mentors to children and teens.

"You need to be a social media guide," she said. "Sitting next to them and educating them…it's really a matter of knowing your kids and what they can handle."

A recent article in The Washington Post provided guidance on adjusting settings in apps like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok, allowing users to exert some control over the violent and abhorrent content that may appear in their feeds.

Another concern on social media is the rapid spread of disinformation and the difficulty of separating fact from fiction.

While plenty of real imagery and accounts of the ensuing carnage have emerged, they have been intermingled with users pushing false claims and misrepresenting videos from other events, as reported by the Associated Press.

"I suggest approaching any content in social media with a lot of skepticism," said Cal State East Bay Professor Grant Kien. "Assume it's false before you assume it's true and try to prove that it's true."

Kien said there is also an increase in recent years in hate and antisemitism posted online. He said live-streaming of violent acts such as massacres in synagogues are not new.

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"What I really do fear is when that gets translated into action on the ground, which have also been on the increase," he said. 

Jewish Community High School said it already teaches students on how to identify fake sources and misleading information.

But with increasing exposure, it can become overwhelming, which is why school leaders said the focus need to be on the wellbeing of the most vulnerable amid a turbulent time.

"The bigger horror is knowing what's happening to people," said Ruben. "Just because they're Jews."

Brooks Jarosz is a reporter for KTVU. Email him at and follow him on Facebook and X @BrooksKTVU