A Child's View: Grief in the Digital Age


BY: Jane Arnoff Logsdon, MSSA, LSW

CATEGORY: Grief and Loss

​Technology and grief go together like…well they really don’t go together, do they? Yet nowadays, everything we do is impacted by technology from ordering food to how we communicate. And this includes how we grieve. The current generation is exposed to technology from birth so they are the first ones to feel its influence throughout their entire childhood and adolescence. As parents and caregivers, it is often overwhelming to sort through what our youth is exposed to, but we must.

We have seen many new developments in the area of grief and loss related to technology. For instance, people grieve online both individually and communally. Teens and kids often first hear about deaths on social media
or by a text. Facebook “In Memory of ” pages and Instagram “Insta-Memorials”
are quickly created and grow minute by minute. Hashtags about the deceased
pop up and multiply in an instant. These tools can provide a supportive and appealing space for young people, but are also almost impossible to monitor
and often become rife with random comments. Finally, this new way of sharing grief is not the same as a face-to face experience or sending a card. But we have to accept that this is their reality even though it can detract from more personal encounters.

As James, Oltejenbruns, and Whiting state in their article, “Grieving
Adolescents: The Paradox of Using Technology for Support”, technology is
here to stay. There is much research and exploration ahead of us but we must
accept that we are not going back to the previous means of communication. We recognize that there are positive elements as well as drawbacks to technology as it relates to grief support. For instance, if a teen learns of a peer’s death online in a tweet or via text, he or she may not have the needed emotional support present while hearing the news. However, it
is good that we can convey pertinent information in a timely manner to many
people. Anyone can livestream a funeral if needed. The challenge lies in providing that in-person support and processing while respecting that many of our youth use technology as their primary communication. So much to consider. Rest assured, we will be here navigating this challenging terrain along with you!

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