Don't Use Your Words!Children's Emotions in a Networked World

Don't Use Your Words!Children's Emotions in a Networked World

Jane Juffer

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9781479831746

Publisher: NYU Press

Abstract

Don’t Use Your Words! argues that the discourse of “emotional management” across educational, therapeutic, and media sites aimed at young children valorizes the naming of certain (accepted) emotions in the interest of containing affective expressions that don’t conform to the normative notion of growing up. A therapeutic discourse has become prevalent in media produced for children in the U.S.—organizing storylines to help them name and manage their feelings, a process that weakens the intensity and range of those feelings, especially their expression through the body. Both through the appropriation of these media texts and the production of their own culture, kids resist these emotional categorizations, creating an “archive of feeling” that this book documents. Taking a cultural studies approach, the book analyzes a variety of cultural productions by kids between the ages of five and nine: drawings by Central American refugee children; letters and pictures by kids in response to the Trump victory; observations of a Montessori classroom; tweets from a Syrian child; Tumblr fanart; kids’ television reviews from Common Sense Media; dozens of YouTube videos; and observations of kids playing the popular games Minecraft and Roblox. I show how kids talk to each other across these media by referencing memes, songs, and movements, constructing a common vernacular that departs from normative conceptions of growing up. This book asks: what does it feel like to be a kid? And why do so many policy makers, parents, and pedagogues treat feelings as something to be managed and translated?