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Screenagers "Growing Up in the Digital Age" A Review

I recently had the opportunity to view the documentary, Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age, at Castleview High School. The screening was sponsered by the Castle Rock Middle School counseling and prevention departments. Ironically for a documentary about the digital age, the movie started 45 minutes late, because the school counselors could not figure out how to get the movie to play on the AV system in the theater at Castleview. After a rough start, the documentar finally began.

Screenagers was made by a primary care physician named Dr. Delaney Ruston. From the Screenagers website it states, "Delaney takes a deeply personal approach as she probes into the vulnerable corners of family life, including her own, to explore struggles over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction. Through poignant, and unexpectedly funny stories, along with surprising insights from authors, psychologists, and brain scientists, SCREENAGERS reveals how tech time impacts kids’ development and offers solutions on how adults can empower kids to best navigate the digital world and find balance."

I have been deeply interested in seeing this film, since its releae in 2016. In the digital world, things move incredibly quickly, as we all know. Some of the more recent challenges of technology that exist today, were not even discussed in this film. The main difference I noticed was that Fortnite did not exist yet when this film was made. That game alone, has made a huge difference in the use of techology in my own home.

I loved this film. It is so incredibly relevant to children of all ages, not only teenagers. It starts an important conversation regarding the challenges parents have today to control, monitor, and/or limit, the use of technology for our children. As we know, not a single one of us had cell phones when were in middle or high school. We are embarking on uncharted waters.

There were many key points made throughout the film. In order to limit this review, I will share some of my favorites:

1. Humans are wired through evolution for "Seeking Behavior". We are always looking for something new because in the past we were searching for food or predators. Our body releases dopamine whenever we see something new. Screens provide a never ending supply of newness 24-7. Humans were created to seek out new things at all times.

2. Even if you do not have your device with you, but the person sitting next to you has their device, it is a distraction to you. Their device affects your performance in school or work.

3. There are phone usage agreements available online for children and their parents.

4. 40% of teens have no after school activities. The overscheduled kid is a myth in our society. Kids who are involved in after school activities have more self confidence, better grades, and better relationships with their peers and families. After school activities also limit screen time for teens.

5. In general, boys spend their time on video games and girls spend time on social media.

6. Kids think they can multitask, by being on a device while doing homework at the same time. Studies show that by multitasking, you are actually doing worse and worse on everything that you are trying to do. The overstimulation tires out the brain and doesn't allow for peak performance.

7. Technology in the bedroom affects children's sleep.

8. Parents need to set rules and boundries surrounding technology with love. It is important to be clear with your child as to why they should do something or why they shouldn't do something.

9. There is a Digital Divide in our society. In lower income families, giving a child a computer to use at home actually decreases that student's scores on math and reading tests because of how he/she uses the computer. It does not improve academics in lower income families.

10. Practical advice: Turn data off while child is studying. Teach children/teens that respect online is just as important as in real life. Create a contract with your child. Find offline activities that your child enjoys.

The filmmaker, Dr. Ruston created "Tech Talk Tuesdays" where she "shares her family's weekly topics to help manage and decrease struggles around screen time." I recommend signing up for weekly emails from her that provide topics on conversation to have with your children.

If you would like more infomation on this topic please visit the film's website at:

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