In Screenagers, as with her award-winning documentaries on mental health, physician and filmmaker Dr Delaney Ruston takes a deeply personal approach as she probes into the vulnerable corners of family life to explore struggles over social media, video games 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.
“This is truly a film that anyone who has children in their life needs to see. In fact, it’s just as useful for adults who are facing their own struggles with balancing the invasiveness of today’s technology. We are delighted to be able to show the film for free thanks to the generous funding of our Parent Support Group,” said Jason McBride, Head of School for UWCT.
The film is not just Ruston’s personal voyage as she enlists the help of more than eight experts across relevant fields, from the Director of the Center for Integrative Brain Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute to Pulitzer Prize nominated authors.
Along the way, the film unearths some thought-provoking statistics including the fact that today’s youth are spending an average of 6.5 hours a day on screens, that 23% of kids online engage in cyberbullying, and that for each hour of television kids watch per day, they consume an extra 167 calories.
Additionally, the dopamine released in the brain from screen time is the very same as from other habit-forming behaviours like drinking alcohol.
“Research confirms that the more time students spend on devices, the less likely they are to complete their homework and the poorer their performance at school. But it isn’t the academic impact that has us so concerned, it’s the impact on mental health and physical wellbeing,” explains McBride.
“At UWCT we try to combat this with mindfulness, healthy eating, exercise and digital citizenship, but devices are pervasive and the challenges they create for young people’s mental health really are cause for concern. As educators and parents, we need to act.”
A 2017 study by the UK’s Royal Society of Public Health, found that seven in 10 teens said Instagram made them feel worse about body image and half of 14-24 year olds reported Instagram and Facebook exacerbated anxieties.
Facebook, two-thirds found, made cyberbullying worse. Even more troublesome are those who choose to forgo real-world interactions for the digital space – reluctant to interact and incapable of detaching from their devices.
“This is a challenge unique to our children’s generation and equally so for today’s parents – regardless of where they live or what school their children attend. As educators we are compelled to help families navigate this changing digital landscape.
At UWCT we have a commitment to digital citizenship, offering mindful parenting sessions in our on-campus Mindfulness Centre, hosting renowned Buddhist Scholar Alan Wallace for a two-day free seminar from November 17 and providing a cost-free venue to show Screenagers to anyone who is interested.
This isn’t a ‘teen’ problem or a ‘school’ problem – it’s an ‘everyone’ problem.”
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Please note that spaces are limited.