The West Ada School District invited parents and students to a viewing of ScreenAgers, a documentary about families struggling to find balance with internet usage and screen time. The movie is not available online and can only be viewed at select locations.
I was able to watch the movie with my two middle school kids last night. If you do not have the chance to watch it, here are a few highlights and insights I learned from the movie:
The average teenager spends over six hours a day looking at screens. Because our brains are wired to release dopamine when we receive new information, scrolling through social media or watching short clips (like Tik Tok), makes us feel good. While we may ‘feel good’, overstimulation tires the brain. This rapid stimulation compromises the brain’s ability to think clearly and solve problems.
Several experts in the movie explained how difficult it is for our brains to pay attention. Staying focused at school is already a challenge for a lot of students and when one phone is out in class, the students sitting adjacent to the phone also tend to be distracted.
Some kids argue, using a mobile phone when they are bored is no different than daydreaming or doodling — but daydreaming and doodling are both good for your brain. They allow the brain to process information from the day. Using a device does the opposite.
The movie was not full of data or statistics about internet usage, which I would have preferred, instead it focused on the real struggle of teens and parents trying to find a healthy balance. One family decided to give their daughter a phone, along with a list of guidelines and rules about her phone usage. Here is the phone ‘contract’ they created, along with one created by a different family. If you want to create one that is individualized for your family, there is also a link to information that will help you get started (determining your family rules, principals, incentives, and consequences).
The movie also discussed internet gaming and it’s potentially addictive qualities stating; the average boy spends 14+ hours, or two full school days every week playing online games. The movie also discussed the pressure girls feel to be pretty, due to constant exposure and praise for people’s physical appearance, displayed on social media.
When we left the movie, I asked my kids what they had learned. We discussed my husband’s and my phone usage (it’s not just a kid problem), the benefits of limited screen time (my 11-year-old admitted she would be on Tik Tok all day if I didn’t limit her to 30 minutes), what our family could be doing with our free time instead of being on our phones (playing outside, cooking together, being more creative, or learning a musical instrument) and what is a reasonable amount of time for gaming every day.
The best thing about the movie was the conversation I was able to have with my kids about the positive and negative qualities of internet usage. If you would like to have more conversations about technology with your families, here is a link to ‘tech talk Tuesday’s’. You can sign up to receive weekly topics to discuss with your family.
Does your family have conversations about technology usage in your home? Do you have a mobile phone contract or a clear list of family rules? If so, please feel free to share them!