Screenagers is a new documentary, debuting March 2, that explores how teens interact with each other and their phones. Director, physician and parent, Delaney Ruston turns the camera on her own family and asks experts questions of how much is too much when it comes to video games and device addiction. Be sure to read Common Sense Media’s review of the film, and use their question prompts to extend this vital conversation about the digital citizenship issues facing us all. More here on how you can host a screening.
Physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston decided to make Screenagers as she found herself constantly struggling with her two kids about screen time. Ruston felt guilty and confused, not sure what limits were best, especially around smartphones, social media, gaming, and how best to monitor online homework. Hearing repeatedly that other parents were equally overwhelmed, she realized the struggle over tech time had become one of the biggest parenting issues of our time.
Ruston turned the camera on her own family and others—revealing stories that depict messy struggles over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction:
- Hannah is a 14-year old victim of social media bullying that stemmed from trying to hide her use of social media from her mom
- Andrew is a former straight A student whose love of video games spun out of control when he left for college, landing him in a 90-day program at an Internet rehab center
Woven throughout the film are insights from thought leaders including Peggy Orenstein, Sherry Turkle, Simon Sinek, as well as cutting edge neuroscience. Among the statistics cited in the film:
- Kids spend on average 6.5 hours a day on screens, not including classroom or homework screen time.
- Boys spend on average the equivalent of 1.5 days on video games every week
- Screen time increases dopamine production and causes behavior that mimics addiction
Beyond exposing the risks of screen time, SCREENAGERS reveals multiple approaches parents, teachers and other community leaders can use to work with kids to help them achieve a healthy amount of screen time, while still respecting its role in their lives, particularly their social lives. It also suggests family solutions that include parents assessing their own screen time.
Community Viewing Model and Screening Toolkit
More than a film, SCREENAGERS is a movement. With its distributor Indieflix, SCREENAGERS employs the new community viewing distribution model, encouraging parents and educators nationwide to start important conversations about how screen time impacts our lives. Parents, educators, PTAs, faith-based institutions and workplace groups are encouraged to book their own screenings and secure speakers at www.screenagersmovie.com. When a group signs on to host a screening, the SCREENAGERS team works with them to publicize their screening event and provides a SCREENAGERS moderator discussion guide, teacher discussion guide, and a template for a handout that gives parents additional solutions, tips and ways they can successively continue conversations with their kids after viewing the film.
About the Filmmakers
- Delaney Ruston,Director/Producer/Cinematographer/Editor/Writer, is a multi award-winning filmmaker, Stanford trained physician, and mother of two. She has produced two PBS feature documentaries: UNLISTED: A Story of Schizophrenia, about her father, and HIDDEN PICTURES, about global mental health. The latter was screened by 141 organizations including the World Health Organization. Ruston has won several awards for her work launching mental health awareness campaigns using film as the cornerstone. In addition to filmmaking, Ruston has spent more than a decade providing primary medical care to the underserved.
- Lisa Tabb, Producer/Executive Producer, is a television producer and content developer for news and unscripted television. For the last 15 years she’s been a news producer at ABC 7 News in San Francisco.
- Scilla Andreen, Producer/Executive Producer, is CEO of Indieflix and Founder of IndieFlix Foundation, an award-winning filmmaker, Emmy-nominated costume designer, and tireless champion of independent film.
- Karin Gornick, Executive Producer, has more than 20 years experience creating, funding and driving impactful television, multimedia and educational outreach projects for companies including CNN, The Travel Channel, and Common Sense Media. She is a two-time Emmy Award and NAB/Service to Children’s Programming Award Recipient.