Professor Juan Rios, director of Seton Hall's Master of Social Work program, was featured on the PBS show, "State of Affairs." The show is hosted by Steve Adubato, who has won four Emmy Awards for his work on public television. Adubato also serves as a Buccino Leadership Institute Fellow at Seton Hall and has taught a master class on leadership and communication for the last three years.
In addition to being the director of Seton Hall's MSW program, Professor Rios has headed and developed programs in East Orange, Newark and Brooklyn designed to facilitate social and emotional learning in disadvantaged youth. He also headed the launch of the Community Care & Justice program in South Orange, which looked to "reimagine" policing and included a social justice curriculum for South Orange and Newark residents, educators, elected officials and youth.
On "State of Affairs" Professor Rios was asked to talk about the impact of Covid/remote learning on school-aged children – especially as it pertains to social emotional learning.
Asked what he thought were the most significant social and emotional setbacks suffered by young people over the course of the pandemic, Professor Rios noted that impact was widespread and that:
"What our research is showing is that over the last year there’s been a 30 percent increase in young people going to the emergency room as a result of anxiety; a 25 percent increase in adolescents with depressive symptoms; a four percent raise in suicide rates amongst adolescent boys; and a 51 percent increase in suicidal ideations and a trip to the hospital among adolescent girls. It is clearly evident that the pandemic has increased the social and emotional challenges, specifically among our youth."
Asked whether the pandemic exacerbated the challenges for teens and pre-teens to engage in direct conversation without the aid of social media and other forms of digital technology, Professor Rios replied:
"Absolutely. Adolescents aside – as they are dealing with the developmental stages of individuating; the developmental stages of building their identities – For us as adults it's been difficult to be in social spaces. We also have to really relearn what it’s like to engage in a conversation that’s longer than 180 characters. We have to be able to engage in conversations where it truly builds connection. Because connection we find is one of the factors really combatting depression and building resiliency."
Professor Rios also noted the importance of physical space engagement in pedagogy, where students may not merely log out or "shut down their screen" when pushed or challenged and "when things get tough."
"And that's the resiliency piece we have to consider," said Rios. "When our youth, our adolescents, in schools are being challenged and pushed together to be able to answer some questions – to work through and problem solve together through what we call 'distress tolerance' – that helps build resiliency. That helps build character and confidence."
To view the segment, please visit the "State of Affairs" with Professor Juan Rios (interview starts at 18:18).
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