MWS and the Human Development and Family Studies program at URI are co-sponsoring a showing of Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age on Sunday, April 10. Tickets are $10 and must be purchased in advance. Click here for tickets
Physician and filmmaker Delany Ruston decided to make the documentary Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age when she found herself constantly struggling with her two children about screen time. She felt guilty and confused, not sure what limits were best, especially around the use of mobile phones, social media, gaming, and how to monitor online homework.
The recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) regarding children’s use of media have remained largely unchanged for 15 years. With children now spending more time on entertainment media than they do at school, the AAP is proposing new guidelines that stress the need for parents to be active in managing this aspect of their children’s lives. “Parenting has not changed”, proposes the AAP, “The same parenting rules apply to your children’s real and virtual environments. Play with them. Set limits; kids need and expect them. Teach kindness. Be involved. Know their friends and where they are going with them”.
However, screens have become so ubiquitous in our culture that many parents feel overwhelmed and unable to determine what is best for their children. In an interview with the New York Times Dr Rushton says, “The worst thing a parent can do is hand over a smart phone and hope for the best. But parents often feel like trying to set limits is pointless, that the cat is out of the bag, tech is everywhere. I hear all kinds of excuses. But kids’ brains aren’t wired to self-regulate. They can’t do it without you, and they shouldn’t have to.”
The film weaves real life stories with scientific evidence and insights from experts in child development, brain science, and psychology. Boys and girls use media differently, leading to different issues. Stories include that of a 14-year old girl who fell victim to social media bullying, and of a boy whose love of video gaming took him from straight A student to internet rehab. Because young brains are not yet fully developed, children and teens are particularly vulnerable to the effects of screen use. The film includes findings from recent studies about the impact of media on for children’s ability to learn and to reach their full academic potential.
Screenagers gives parents practical ideas for creating a healthy digital environment for their families. It suggests ways to work with teens to help them build good habits and to balance their on-screen lives with the real life experiences. The film is intended to spark discussion between educators and parents as well as with teens. We all live in the digital age and only by working together will we be able to ensure that this technology changes our lives for the better.