Unplug! Unplug! Part but not all of the message delivered to an audience of adults and teens at the Wednesday, February 15th presentation and discussion of the film "Screenagers, Growing Up in the Digital Age", sponsored by the Holliston PTO.
Unplug? Unplug? How can we get our children to unplug all of their devices? But do we even want them to do so? How much screen time is okay and how much is not? And how do we even begin to monitor our children's usage when schools themselves require students to use computers and tablets to complete homework? There are, it seems, no easy answers.
Okay. The message in the movie "Screenagers, Growing up in the Digital Age" was not quiite so dramatic. It did, however, address the very real problems of too much screen time and the difficulities involved in monitoring the use of devices, including mobile phones, tablets, and video games. The movie and ensuing panel discussion, sponsored by the Holliston PTO and held at the high school, was well-attended by both parents and teens. The film was introduced by Darlene Vittori-Marsell, a pediatric nurse practioner. She, along with Laurel Watt-Aldridge, a psychologist, and John Powers, a Holliston Middle School guidance counselor headed the panel discussion.
The film itself covered some important issues with which parents deal. When should teens get cell phones? How can a parent know how much time his/her child is spending on homework and how much time is for texting and playing video games? The film and the experts in it were split on whether video games cause violence, but there is evidence that the violent games can add to bullying and aggressive behavior. However, some educational games can aid with strategizing and organization. Even with these games, though, children can have trouble turning them off. Video games can also be addictive by aiding in the development of pleasure sensors in the brain.
After the movie, members of the audience asked questions of the panel. Several of the questions dealt with the problem of the regulation of time and and the usage of the devices. Parents wanted advice on how to make their children more responsible and how to monitor their usage. The presenters admitted that there is no easy way to tell how much time is spent on work.
Another mother shared a number of rather disturbing findings about the effect of all of our devices on our brains and the developing brains of our children. Two books she mentioned are "Reset Your Child's Brain" and "Glow Kids".
The film and the panel did mention including your children in the discussion about restrictions you may want to put on device usage, as well as settig time liimits for using games. Watt-Aldridge said that the skills one needs are skills that one builds outside of the screen and then applies to the screen.
The presentation was a very informative, if a sobering, glimpse into the mental, physical, and societal problems that are already presenting themselves. One final note - the next time the high school hosts a program, it might behoove someone to turn on the heat!