Jenny Radesky: One Thing We Must Do Now
April 7, 2020
What is one thing you believe must be done now to improve how children and families are faring during the current crisis, specifically as it relates to the media and technology in their lives?
Awaken our social and emotional relationship with media.
Jenny Radesky, MD, is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, at University of Michigan Medical School.
Parents and children’s relationships with technology have been brought into stark relief with the coronavirus. We now are distinctly aware of what we need from media—seeing our family’s faces, hearing our classmates’ voices—and also aware of how vicarious anger, trauma, and grief through media can overwhelm our emotional resources. I hear people reflecting on how they use technology to cope: sometimes in ways that make the anxiety worse (e.g., thinking we can soothe ourselves with more information, hitting refresh as the red dots grow on COVID maps), and sometimes giving us stories that help us believe that there are good forces and balance in the world (for my family, lots of Star Wars and Harry Potter). I hear people recognizing that their usual escapes from emotional distress and boredom into a video binge or social media feed aren’t necessarily helping sustain the things that give their lives meaning, such as laughing, cooking, nature, storytelling, or song. When COVID-19 recedes and we can finally leave our homes, I hope that people will have a new awareness of when media supports their family’s social and emotional needs, and when it—albeit unintentionally—undermines them. This insight into our social and emotional relationship with media is crucial to both digital literacy and prioritizing human-centered over profit-centered design in the decades to come.
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