Screenagers is a documentary film by Delaney Ruston that is currently making the rounds across North America. “Growing Up in the Digital Age” is the subtitle and the film covers a range of topics that include but aren’t limited to, gaming, social media and the pressures associated with it, addiction, digital citizenship and the role of screens in the lives of families. It clocks in at an hour and six minutes which was a bit long in the opinion of my teenager, but does a decent job of presenting some of the challenges facing teens and their parents when it comes to understanding the relationship we have with devices. I’d encourage you to see it should it be screening in your area. Please check out the following link for more details: Screenagers: The Movie
I brought my kids with me (kids 18 and under are free) and while they were reluctant at first (“Geez dad, will there even be any other kids there?” – there were), in the end they both felt it was worth while. The biggest take aways for us actually came from a panel discussion that happened after the screening. In it, we learned about the concept of “Goldilocks” – the notion that there can be too much screen time, too little and some that is just right. This amount will of course vary from family to family depending on their values but my kids liked this idea that there could be a happy medium. I fully support this notion. I work in an industry that creates content for screens, and my business was boosted when the iPad and like models came out opening up a whole new avenue for storytelling, so while I have a vested interest in content development I also don’t want screens to take over my kid’s lives. I’d prefer to have discussions with them about developing strategies to help them gain control of their usage and how to be good digital citizens rather than characterize screens as dangerous and addictive. Probably the best part of the whole experience was the talk we had on the drive home. Here are the ideas that stuck with us the most:
- There can be a happy medium of screen usage and it’s up to kids and their parents to discuss this together
- Self control takes practice and we as parents are there to help
- One of the film’s experts, Laura Kastner, talked about the idea of high school students being “under programmed”. She quoted a stat that 40% of teens don’t have after school programs and are turning to screens to fill their time
- Fake Likes. I had no idea what this was but my teenage daughter explained it to me. She pointed out that this can be better managed by making one’s online profiles private thereby restricting comments to people you know.
- Parents need to take a look in the mirror and examine their screen time usage. Do you take your phone into the bathroom with you? Do you look at it as soon as you wake up? Right before you go to bed? Guilty…
- The irony that we were watching a film about screen usage on a screen and that we were being asked and encouraged to post our thoughts online and to respond to questions and ideas, through our screens
If nothing else, this film provided another opportunity to discuss this subject together. I don’t know what is right or wrong, I’m not sure anyone does, but based on our family’s values we will continue to make decisions that support what we believe in. Perhaps the most important thing we can offer our kids when it comes to screen time is an open, non-judgemental door to talk.