New Documentary Explores The Effects Of Screen Time On Children

A new documentary called “Screenagers” takes a close look at the epidemic we as parents are facing when it comes to our children and “screen time.” While I haven’t had the chance to see the film yet, just the trailer alone sparks some great questions and things to think about.

The director, Delaney Ruston, is the leading voice in the film, and she talks through the research she did when her 12-year-old daughter wanted her first smartphone. In the trailer, she says children spend six and a half hours a day looking at screens – not including school and homework time. That’s an incredible amount of time, but it’s a statistic we all probably can relate to.

According to GeekWire, which did a review of the film, Ruston presents a great deal of scientific research and medical opinions in the film while also addressing relevant topics like the role technology plays in bullying at schools, violence in video games and body-image issues.

She also addresses ways we as parents can put guidelines in place for our kids, stressing the importance of talking through rules and really explaining where we’re coming from as parents. Laurance Steinberg, a professor of adolescence at Temple Univerisity, explains, “The mistake that parents often make is that they assert their authority without explaining it in a way that makes sense to their child.” Children will often come back with, “It’s different now. Everyone has a phone.” And, while it’s true that times have changed, many things about the way children learn and grow into healthy adults have stayed the same. Therefore, it’s so necessary to get on the same page with your kids and monitor the digital world in which we all live in.

One of the things that really stood out to me from the trailer is the discussion on multitasking and what it does to children’s brains. I’m sure we’ve all tried to have a conversation with our children – or another adult, for that matter – while they are glued to their phones or video games. The level at which they tune us out or respond without truly listening is frightening. Sometimes, though, people seem to be able to do both (answer e-mails and hold a conversation, play video games while doing homework, etc) with remarkable ease. But, what is really happening when we multitask?

Dimitri Christakis, professor of pediatrics at University of Washington, says, “The young, adolescent brain can oscillate back and forth very very quickly, but it comes at a cost.” Ruston goes on to say, “What’s extraordinary about the studies on multitasking is even though you’re doing worse and worse on everything you’re doing, you feel like you’re doing better.”

I’m eager to watch the entire film and see what other research is cited, as well as the suggestions for dealing with technology. Scilla Andreen, the executive producer of “Screenagers” told GeekWire, “We have to learn our relationship with food, alcohol, other people — same goes for screens. Ultimately would I like people to look up a little bit more? Absolutely.” I think we have to acknowledge that screens have become just as important of a health concern for our kids as things like eating disorders, drugs and alcohol.

Personally, the idea of conscious parenting and the concept of awareness in every day life is something that I believe translates to our children. The more present we are in the moment, the more we are mirroring the behavior we wish to see. We can’t expect our children to look up from their phones when we aren’t willing to do the same. Encouraging genuine conversation, requiring your children to sit at the table without playing video games or watching TV and marking out time for activities like reading, drawing or playing outside are all things we should place a priority on to teach our children about the world outside of the screen.

Has anyone seen the film? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear in the comments section! What kind of rules do you have regarding your kids’ “screen time.”

14 replies
  1. Denis Moosa
    Denis Moosa says:

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    • Limor Weinstein
      Limor Weinstein says:

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