Sunday, 5 March 2017


Last week I went to a screening of a great documentary - Screenagers. It was made by Delaney   Ruston, a doctor with teens of her own. Although the movie is aimed at families with teenagers, I went because the whole issue of screen time is one that concerns me.

This film is only available at community sponsored events. It was easy for me to attend, as it was showing at our kids' former school. I was happy to sit in the familiar auditorium and see that nearly all 700 seats were filled. This was quite an accomplishment. All those parents were concerned enough that they and their teens were out in force on a Wednesday night. How often do teenagers and their parents attend a movie together?

Screenagers is well worth seeing. It's not preachy but informative and entertaining. Here are some of the ideas mentioned in the film:

Self control is the main issue. How much self control do kids, teens, and adults exercise when it comes to screen time? How much are we all sucked into more, more, more?

On average, teenage boys play 11.5 hours of video games a week. They profiled one family where the son became totally addicted. He eventually went to Restart, a rehab centre for screen addiction. One concern with video games is the effect of repeated violence. Another is the fact that a sense of empathy is diminished with increased game time.

A new digital divide was explored. This is not the divide between those who have devices and those who don't. No, this new digital divide is about how devices are being used in homes of various economic status. In homes where parents are absent or too busy, kids are using all sorts of electronic devices with absolutely no supervision or adult guidance. In homes where parents have more time and education, their kids' online activities are being restricted and closely monitored. That monitoring makes all the difference. With screen time and everything else - kids will succeed if they have boundaries set by loving parents.

As in all aspects of parenting, easier said than done. In the movie, the doctor tried to impose a five page contract on her daughter when she got a new cell phone. It included important rules like no technology in the bedroom. (Lack of sleep in teens is a major issue.) By the end of the movie, the rules in the contract had been adjusted. Parents' rules always have a better chance of success if they are explained, discussed and justified by the parents.

Here's the catch with all the screen time rules a parent may want to set. How are kids going to follow any of these rules if parents themselves are constantly glued to their own devices? What kind of example are we all setting for our kids and grandchildren? The movie closed with a question meant for all of us, at any age - How can we maintain balance between our screen time and other activities, throughout the day?

For more information on Screenagers click here. If it plays at a school or community centre near you, it's well worth attending.

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