The Importance of Trigger Warnings
Hi everyone! I’m J from the BookTube channel J.L. Todd the Diction Puppeteer! Today I will be writing about a topic I am very passionate about: trigger/content warnings in books and their importance.
First of all, let’s all get on the same page of what “triggered” means. It does NOT mean that someone gets mad over something someone else said or did (usually a boy saying a girl is triggered, but that’s a different topic). What getting triggered IS is—when a stimulus such as a keyword, or smell, or something else that reminds a person of an event that is/was traumatic—that person has a negative reaction, such as relapsing, suffering from a panic attack, or worse.
Now, that being said, should books with possibly-triggering topics have content warnings? Yes.
One of the biggest reasons people read is to escape and live lives beyond their own. If someone that has experienced something traumatic (such as domestic abuse) and they read a novel containing domestic abuse, they can’t escape their reality and suffering. Authors, especially Young Adult writers, should include content warnings. Young adults count as children in publishing, and as a children’s author, it’s the writer’s responsibility to protect underage readers when they are able. Alerting readers of possibly-harmful content allows readers to make an informed decision about whether they want to read the book or not; think of it has a mental health allergy warning. While it’s true teenagers go through a lot—both as part of growing up and in the current political climate—that doesn’t mean they don’t have a breaking point.
I have personally read only a handful of books with content warnings: The Last 8 by Laura Pohl; Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan; Amanda Lovelace’s poetry collections.
While not trigger warnings, other forms of storytelling have a form of content warnings. Movies and video games have ratings and brief explanations justifying those ratings; shows will sometimes have ratings, such as PG TV-14; even rides and packaged food have warnings, such as “don’t ride if pregnant,” “includes strobe lights,” and “contains peanuts.”
Readers don’t want to go into a book thinking they will be fine, then get to a triggering scene and get hurt. Including content/trigger warnings at the beginning of books allow readers to make an informed decision, to give them options, to give them a choice. Content warnings protect readers’ well-being, and that is why they’re important.