In the not so distant past, people, particularly children, saw police as a comforting presence in times of trouble. That perception has radically changed. A large percentage of the population is now afraid to interact with law enforcement for any reason. The prevalence of guns may be a major factor in that perspective.

Rather than feeling safer when individuals see a police presence, they typically assume it’s a worst case scenario of an active shooter. The mere presence of police with guns can contribute to an ongoing sense of fear, especially in children.

Well-documented research has proven that ongoing exposure to guns, gunfire and gun violence causes stress, trauma, and affect a child’s physical, mental and emotional development. Even the anticipation of gun-related violence is resulting in students that exhibit greater levels of dependence, fear and overall anxiety.

It’s a powerful argument against arming teachers, and more armed guards that further students’ exposure to firearms and intensify their sense of helplessness. It also has the potential of giving rise to an entirely new type of school shooting.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, armed guards were a fact of life in 43 percent of schools nationwide during the 2015-2016 school year, but that doesn’t necessarily make the institution safer. Protocols typically call for guards to wait for law enforcement to arrive and not engage the shooter.

Armed school guards, the increased number of guns, and the emotional/mental trauma of living with the expectation of violence have resulted in a generation of children that feel extremely vulnerable. That anxiety now extends to police officers that should be viewed as protectors. It’s essential that parents, educators and students know that there are tools available that are specifically designed to help protect them.

The Texas Guardians has developed a technologically advanced app for phones that’s been proven to precisely pinpoint the exact location of a threat within seconds and transmit that data to local law enforcement. It dims phone lights, mutes sound to protect users in hiding, and has the ability to capture an image of the individual. It’s customizable and multiple types of alerts can be sent, including a lockdown.

Exposure to guns, violence, and the threat of gun violence is taking an incalculable toll on youth. The tools are available to help in the event of a shooter and other threats without arming teachers or employing more armed guards in schools. It’s time to use that technology to help students feel safer, while reducing their fear, anxiety, and ever-present sense helplessness.