Screenagers Documentary Drives Parents to Question the Internet Addiction

By Kate Anslinger

Last Thursday evening, middle school families and the students, gathered in the Neil Shapiro Center for the Performing Arts to tackle the social media struggle head on, by way of a documentary called, “Screenagers.”

“It is no secret that the amount of time a child spends on a screen is concerning for most parents, but the key is setting realistic limits and expectations with the child’s input,” said Middle-school Principal, Brian Curley.

Posting, sharing and tweeting are a few of the many words heard on a regular basis. The world is inundated with technology designed to give us ease sharing our lives, both professional and personal, with others.

The buzz of social media has never been more evident, and while it offers tools to stay connected, there are a host of other issues that can arise from the heightened connectivity of today’s world.

If you are a parent, you know what it’s like to battle over screen time with your teens. How much is too much? Will screen addiction be the cause of social and emotional issues in the future? These are all questions that today’s parents have been faced with, and they will only become more prevalent considering technology and social media platforms are growing at an aggressive rate.

The film is the brainchild of physician and parent, Delaney Ruston, who was compelled to activate a conversation amongst parents, psychologists, brain scientists and authors, after seeing her own children afflicted by internet addiction. Like most parents, Ruston’s main concern was how this screen time would impact kids’ development, considering such a vast amount of time is spent looking at a screen. On average 6.5 hours a day is consumed by screen time, and that doesn’t include students’ schoolwork time. Teenage boys are most likely to be victims of the video game addiction and spend roughly, 11.3 hours a week gaming, where they are essentially getting lost in another world at all hours of the night.

The film also touched upon the distraction issues associated with smartphone use.

Students naturally feel that they are doing better at everything when they multi-task, but, according to MIT Professor of Psychology Sherry Turkle, they are actually doing worse at everything because their focus is spread too thin.

Offering real-life examples, Screenagers showcased the results of photo sharing and how it can affect the self-esteem and reputation of young females, who are especially susceptible to appearance pressure.

The film addressed the concerns of both parents and children, and offered tools to help navigate the digital world. According to psychologists, the biggest mistake that parents can make is to not offer children a reason for a rule. If there are no precautions and lessons to be learned, than a child is more likely to partake in the behavior and lack the desire to, in this case, take a break from the screen.

“We talk a lot about social media and its dangers in my household but I am not naive enough to think my kids won’t make mistakes,” said parent Nancy Banfield, who was present for the film. “I am glad that the school is getting involved because I think kids need to hear the message from other sources in the community including teachers, coaches, and other parents. As parents raising children today, we have no clue what we are doing since we did not have these issues growing up. We need all the help we can get.”

Banning phones from certain areas has yet to be successful as it serves as a way around the issue, rather than facing it head on and teaching children how to better use their phones.

“There are no easy answers on how to manage this situation,” said parent and school Committee member Jennifer Powell. “We need to continue having these discussions as a community. Parents need to support the teachers and we, as parents, need to teach our children how to use technology appropriately. It’s less about shutting the phones down and more about providing guidelines that will help the kids make better decisions when it comes to games, phones and the internet.”

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