From the story of the teenage girl whose “selfie” to one boy went viral, to the teenage boy who disconnected from his family because of the time he spent playing video games, the documentary, Screenagers shows a series of vignettes to communicate the complexity of a modern parenting challenge: managing your children’s screen time in an age of ubiquitous digital content.
Who should watch the film?
The creator and director of this documentary is Delaney Ruston, an award-winning filmmaker, physician, and mother of two. On the film’s promotional website Ruston frames the issue of children’s addiction to smart phones, gaming, and screen time in general as “one of the most difficult parenting issues we have ever faced”.
Ruston is “passionate about having the film be a vehicle to bring parents, educators and kids together for post-screening discussions so change can happen not just in our homes but in our schools and communities.”
Director: Delaney Ruston
Production Company: MyDoc Productions
Format: Community and school screenings
Run time: 70 min
MPAA rating: N/A
Even though it is intended for all, the documentary is filmed from a parent’s perspective. What was very interesting is that the children and adults laughed at different times. Parents laughed at the images of kids being lost in digital worlds. The kids, meanwhile, laughed at the naiveté of the adults. It was the generation gap in real time.
Screen time: A concern for many parents
As a father of two teenagers, I went to the screening because I am concerned with the amount of time my kids spend looking at screens. I learned that I am not alone.
The department of social services of Banff, Alberta, where I live, organized the screening I attended. You might think that a town famous for outdoor sports and activities might be less impacted by the lure of screens but the truth is, this is a universal problem. To date, over 2000 communities across the U.S. and Canada have hosted screenings of this documentary.
No matter where you live, you’re likely either dealing with — or going to be dealing with — how to manage your child’s screen time in the future.
Parents are searching for solutions to the screen time problem
After the screening was a panel discussion with a psychologist specialized in mental services and addictions, a child and youth program coordinator, and students. Listening to the panelists and people in attendance, it became clear that there is a huge gap between how kids and adults perceive this issue. As they state in the documentary, the attempt by parents to deal with the issue often “turns to messy struggles” within families.
The documentary provided some solutions, especially on how to talk to my kids about my concerns. The most beneficial take-away for me was that the documentary helped me make sense of the many different ways I feel uncomfortable when confronting this issue. Watching Screenagers helped me clarify why I am concerned.
For example, Doctor Sherry Turkle commented on the effects that the constant state of multi-tasking have on our kids in this digital world:
“What is extraordinary about the studies on multitasking is that even though you are doing worst at everything you are doing, you feel like you are doing better and better…”
I have always “felt” that it wasn’t good for my kids to be on Snapchat as they do their homework, but now I know why. I have clear facts I can share, clear words to express myself, and therefore I am clear on how to discuss the issue with my kids.
Resources for parents
I did find the film’s accompanying website very useful. I especially appreciated the articles from Doctor Ruston filled with practical suggestions, like how to manage screen time during summer vacation, and this useful Gaming Internet Addiction Test.
How to bring a screening of Screenagers to your community
I highly recommend watching this documentary with you child or teenager. If there are no screenings planned for your area, I recommend looking into how to bring Screenagers to your community. The greatest benefit is that I now share the same information about this worrisome issue with hundreds of other parents in my own community. More importantly, we can now explore solutions together.
To quote Peggy Ornstein, author of “Cinderella Ate My Daughter”: “We can’t just say it’s on the schools. It’s on the parents. We have to do this as a community.”