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Introducing a New Series on Families and Tech During COVID-19

2020-09-10 by Dr. Jenny
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Have you ever felt so dependent upon and annoyed by technology as you have the past six months? I haven’t hugged my parents (both in their 70s) since the winter, but I laugh with them every weekend over video chat, and I am so grateful for that. I get to see my patients with autism and ADHD through video visits, get to see their homes, dogs, and favorite toys, and I’m grateful for that window into their lives. Technology is amazing in some ways, but in other ways it drives me crazy — like it’s exploiting all of our collective fear and exhaustion, riling our kids up, or not even coming close to the experience of sitting and laughing around the dinner table.

Join Us to Reflect on Kids’ Relationships with Tech

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Instead of feeling drowned in screens during the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s use it as an opportunity to really think, reflect, and lay down new routines around technology. In a series of posts this fall, I’ll be talking about how technology design can support us, or mess with us. I’ll use my research experience with kids, parents, and technology to offer ideas about teaching kids to be digitally savvy and kind, and how we as grown-ups can identify misinformation and toxic spaces online. I’ll take the mindset that there’s no perfect way to do this, and we need to be patient with ourselves and our kids. But we also can learn deeply from these transformative experiences, so that we can all thrive in our eventual post-COVID lives.

One of my goals will be to demystify all of the things about technology design that drive our kids’ tech obsessions (or our own), but which are really difficult to understand for non-computer-scientists. Hopefully, I can translate things like data collection, algorithms, and user interface design into terms that make sense for everyday parenting decisions.

This is important to figure out this year. Media and technology are shaping our experiences of reality — the news we read, the health information we get on social media, or observing how others are responding to the stresses of this time. My posts will go beyond the idea of “screen time” and instead involve learning how to use quality tech in positive ways (like for social connection, learning about nature, and history), avoid the endless rabbit holes of shallow or iffy content, and preserve offline experiences that tech just can’t replicate.

I hope you’ll join us! Follow Melissa & Doug on social to see future posts in this series.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is partnering with Melissa & Doug on the Power of Play to raise awareness about the health benefits of open-ended play and how important play is for both parents and kids.

Learn more about the Power of Play >

This web site is not an attempt to practice medicine or provide specific medical advice, nor does use of the site establish a physician-patient relationship. The use of this web site does not replace medical consultation with a qualified health or medical professional to meet the health and medical needs of you or others.

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Dr. Jenny

Jenny Radesky, M.D., is a Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician whose research focuses on family digital media use, child social-emotional development, and parent-child interaction. She graduated from Harvard Medical School cum laude in 2007 and is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor. Her clinical work focuses on autism, traumatic stress, ADHD, and self-regulation. Dr. Jenny’s ultimate goal is to help parents understand the individual ways their child thinks, learns, and feels; to help parents provide the best therapy and play experiences for their children; but to also allow parents to sit back and let their child’s mind take the lead sometimes. She authored the 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics digital media guidelines for young children.

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