PTA Coffee Talk draws a SRO crowd for the film SCREENAGERS about Growing up in the Digital Age

By SUZIE HARRISON

It was sitting room only at the packed PTA Coffee Talk screening of “SCREENAGERS: Growing Up in the Digital Age,” at Thurston’s Black Box Theater on Wednesday night. Concerned Laguna Beach parents and their kids came together to find tips and solutions for the glaring problem of excessive electronics usage, too much screen time, and Internet exposure experienced by today’s youth.

Physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston first saw these problems with her own kids, learning that the average kid spends 6.5 hours a day looking at screens. In her documentary, “SCREENAGERS,” Ruston delves into the struggles over social media, video games, academics, and Internet addiction. She 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.

 “I am a big advocate of having that balance. I think there are a lot of times technology is great. But there’s definitely a time and place for it,” said Coffee Talk Chair Sharael Kolberg. “I know my own daughter, when she was little, we went without technology. And I saw such a dramatic impact on her in such a short amount of time, that I can attest to. It really is very impactful for your kids to cut down, and they are going to put up a fight.”

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Photo by Suzie Harrison

A partial crowd shot of the capacity crowd at the PTA Coffee Talk’s screening of the documentary Screenagers

“What I hope that we take away is just to open the line of communication between parents and kids regarding technology usage, the amount they are on it, and the dangers involved that can happen to anyone,” said Kolberg. “We need to be constantly reminded how important it is to keep the line of communication open with our kids. It’s really the main message.”

Alicia Glass, Coffee Talk event coordinator, has a stepdaughter at Laguna Beach High School and a daughter in second grade at El Morro Elementary School.

“We’ve been really good at communicating with the older girl about the dangers of social media and what not. She has been great and actually doesn’t use social media,” Glass said. “We put her on an old-school flip phone and she’s perfectly fine with that. It has been really great. And I think socially, that’s helped her a lot. She’s not into the drama.”

What’s more concerning to Glass is the even younger generation’s attachment to electronics, as with her child in second grade, who started using electronics in kindergarten.

“My daughter, in kindergarten, they start them on iPads. So, they’re already doing lessons on iPads in kindergarten now at the schools and learning how to use all this technology. It’s fully integrated in their day today,” said Glass. “Now she’s really getting into YouTube and things of that nature. So, I am hoping I can learn some tricks from this movie to kind of implement with her because we are seeing her more and more addicted to electronics.”

Thurston seventh-grade student Bella Piskun, who came with her father Boris to see the movie and potentially learn some new tips, said she knows of some students addicted to their devices.

“Usually people look at Instagram or Snapchat and sometimes it’s addictive. Whenever you turn on your phone, your eyes can’t look away,” Piskun said, referring in particular to Instagram. “My dad wants me to be more responsible with technology, like don’t look at inappropriate stuff, do the right thing.” 

 

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Photo by Suzie Harrison

Like Boris and Bella Piskun, many parents and their teens came to see “Screenagers,” a film about balancing life with screen time and electronics usage

Clay and Kimberley Leeds and their two sons Logan, 15, and Elliot, 11, were all in. 

“I’m here because I am concerned about the amount of screen time that kids are exposed to throughout the week,” Clay said. “We take the point of view that screens are useful, and if you’re doing homework, that’s fine, that’s good. But electronics and video games, we limited to two hours a day on Friday and two hours a day on Saturday and that’s it for the week.”

Kimberley said, “I’m hoping to affect my children’s understanding of why I limit their screen time at home. Because during the week they’re not allowed at all unless it has something to do with school, which is difficult because almost everything is on electronic devices now, instead of just paper and pencil.”

She reiterated that during the school week, they ban electronic video games, social media, and interacting with people via electronic devices because it’s becoming an addiction. 

“Their social interaction skills are not so fabulous when they are on the screens. I also find that they’re overly emotional when it’s time to turn it off. Or they don’t get along very well, their wick is so short with each other when they have been playing,” said Kimberley. “So I can tell there’s an effect internally, an instantaneous need – I want rewards immediately. I want what I want when I want it.”

To learn more about “SCREENAGERS,” visit www.screenagersmovie.com.

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