Debra Sanchez: One Thing We Must Do Now

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? 

Want to stay meaningfully connected? Take it from your teens.

Debra Sanchez

Debra Sanchez is Senior Vice President for Education and Children’s Content for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

On March 15, 2020, my family made a commitment to our community and our nation’s health. We adopted this new concept of social distancing with some anxiety, but with intention to do our part. We were ready to modify life as we knew it and see a few friends six feet away and keep in touch through virtual means. We were worried. Would our teens feel isolated? Would they feel disconnected from their world? Would they lose all that they had learned? Would we survive?

We take each day as it comes, and I was initially surprised to see my son and daughter navigating this “social distancing” concept like pros. I quickly realized, though, that they weren’t really social distancing, they were merely physical distancing. Collaborative gameplay continued on Xbox; I became a prop in a number of TikTok videos, they followed their teachers on social media, and we watched Garth Brooks receive the Gershwin Prize on PBS. Laughter and conversation continued through group chats with friends and virtual gatherings with family. Life, while interrupted, became something familiar.

Many adults, parents, teachers, and other experts like to condemn media overuse by young people. My observation in just a few short, socially distanced weeks, is that young people are better equipped to find connections and maintain relationships than the adults in their lives. We don’t know yet what day-to-day life will look like when this pandemic is over, but we have an opportunity now to begin to see our kids as partners in the way we approach and consume media. As parents, we may find ourselves relying on their observations and suggestions as we leverage media to maintain essential human connections. And in public media, we will be working with the Joan Ganz Cooney Center to learn more about this connection in the coming year. Some of that work will be in person soon too, I hope.


See more posts in this series:

Voices on the Future of Childhood

S. Craig Watkins | Debra Sanchez | Jenny Radesky | Karen Cator | Maria Alvarez
Michael H. Levine | Ralph Smith | Rosemarie Truglio | Vikki Katz


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