Smart talk: ‘Screenagers’ screening explores challenges of family life, technology
It’s easy to point the finger at a teenager, eyes practically embedded in a smartphone, fingertips in a text, Twitter, Instagram blur.
But what about those three fingers pointing back at you and your tablet, computer and smartphone?
So let’s have a chat, and we don’t mean Snapchat.
The documentary “Screenagers” will be shown at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Mesa County Libraries’ Central Library, 443 N. Sixth St.
The product of physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston (“Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia,” “Hidden Pictures”), “Screenagers” “probes into the vulnerable corners of family life, including her (Ruston’s) own, to explore struggles over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction,” according to screenagersmovie.com.
The film includes research as well as funny stories as it addresses technology topics that are increasingly on the minds of parents, teachers, health care professionals and, yes, even teenagers.
Steve Brown, who teaches English and a video media high school production class at Grand Junction Class, came across “Screenagers” about a year ago and thought it would be a good way to open a discussion on the topic with his students.
He soon realized the conversation needed to be broader and Tuesday’s screening is being hosted by not only his media class, but by the East Middle School PTO as well.
After the screening, there will be a panel discussion with Dr. Mary Willy, a physician with Western Colorado Pediatric Associates; Adam Cochran, an instructor of mass communications at Colorado Mesa University; and Jenny Peil, an instructor of psychology at Colorado Mesa University.
Brown encourages teens and their parents to attend with the hope of opening meaningful dialogue about “how we manage our digital interactions,” he said.
According to “Screenagers,” teens spend 6.5 hours a day looking at screens. And a 2010 national survey by Kaiser Family Foundation (kff.org) puts that number higher, finding that youth ages 8–18 “devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day.”
From Brown’s experience as a teacher and parent of teenagers, he has found that few young people really understand the amount of time they spend engaged with devices.
He also has noticed how the lines have blurred between social interaction, social media, news and entertainment, which can be tough for teens and parents alike to navigate in a truly thoughtful way.
Text conversations can often be filled with pleasantries or space fillers — “hey,” “OK,” “oh yeah,” “wow” — that aren’t necessarily meaningful, he said.
However, Brown has watched as his daughter has used texting to build and keep friendships with a cousin in Texas and a exchange student from Germany.
Likewise, video or computer games can be a way to spend time with friends or family, but they also can become an addition.
Addiction is real, however it is good to keep in mind the ways technology enhances our lives, Cochran said.
Necessary information, communication and connections — thank you, GPS tracker — are at our fingertips or a matter of simply speaking. “Technology is a tool,” Cochran said.
There are dangers and we need to be aware of them, but technology and devices are incredibly beneficial, he said.
The emphasis needs to be more about setting up rules in your household for their use, he said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics in October released a number of recommendations for media use by children and adolescents. Among those recommendations was for families to develop a Family Media Use Plan to address the use of technology and media by children and teens and their parents.
Information about creating a plan can be found at healthychildren.org.