Screenagers: A review from Moxie

Finally, after three years of patiently waiting, I had the opportunity to see Dr. Delaney Ruston’s Screenagers Movie.  The film didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. However, the documentary is peppered with a gaggle of experts in the child wellness industry.  Authors, psychologists, and brain experts emerge throughout the film offering statistics and solutions to help kids navigate the digital world.

Same story, different era

The movie begins with Dr. Ruston and her daughter, Tessa. Dr. Ruston asks, “Why should I give you a smartphone?” Tessa offers three responses to convince, “All my friends have it. I’ll feel more connected. Wait, what was the question again?” 

Who remembers the days of middle school and high school?  Wanting THE designer clothing line that was big at the time.  If there was a fashion trend, we all wanted to fit in. While my parents did their best to understand the desire to be “in”, I wasn’t always indulged in.

Perhaps, that upbringing is what has led to a hard and fast NO with devices in my household. I simply can’t hand my kids the smartphone and apps because their friends have it or because they will feel more connected. Especially, with the mounting evidence we receive daily regarding the negative impact it’s having on our children.

Teacher vs. Student

A teacher, on the west coast, tries to make a point with students by handing them a V-Tech toy phone in exchange for the coveted smartphone.  This, of course, creates a wave of chuckles throughout the audience.  

The not so funny part is the student reaction.  One student says, “it should be the kid’s choice if they want to learn or not. Schools shouldn’t police your phone.” Essentially, suggesting it is the pupil’s decision whether they want to learn or not.  

Another female student says, “I am so distracted.  I can’t listen to my teacher so I get extra help from my instructor after school.”

Sound the alarms!

Listen up teachers! You are tireless, responsible, committed, amazing, humans, who take care of our children 35 – 40 hours every week.  Don’t you EVER stay after school to help a student who can’t disconnect from the phone. Furthermore, if you know a student is requesting help after school due to digital distractions, it’s time to call mom and dad.  I don’t care how old the child is.  

Here’s the script for you, “Leave the phone at home because it’s causing a problem in your child’s learning.” Additionally stating, “And I don’t get paid enough to stay after school to help your kid because they are sucked into the phone during my class.”  Mic drop!

How are Smartphones any different than doodling?

The argument that doodling is equally distracting and no different than the pings, dings, and notifications from the phone doesn’t hold up.  Another expert states, research shows that doodling helps to improve focus and listening. There is an actual point to doodling. Humans retain information and concentrate better with every squiggle and swirl.  However, the lights, flashes, and sounds coming at us digitally, make it very hard to attend.

The Mom Contract

Next, we are introduced to the mom contract. The altruistic purpose, is to teach self-control.  A 15 point contract between parent and child to establish boundaries and guidelines.  

Why do contracts RANKLE ME SO MUCH? Here’s the issue with this “solution.” The science. Regardless of screen time limits and negotiations, the research still tells us the brain is developing.  The pre-frontal cortex is forming and screen time, of any amount, is damaging the brain. MRI scans confirm this is happening, yet, there’s something that compels us to give them just a bit of heroin (the device.) Additionally, stated in the film, there are permanent changes to the brain and kids are in real trouble. 

When did we turn into a culture that thinks everything must be negotiated with our children? Aren’t we responsible for protecting them? Who’s in charge of their well-being? 

 Why Moxie was born

During the film, a young female states, cell phones help you to look busy in awkward situations.  They help to avoid conversations. Texting can crunch sentences together to simplify and convey a point faster.  Hence, the birth of Learn With Moxie.  

One, singular, teenage girl in the film, is the voice of hundreds of thousands of young people today. It is paramount, that we combat this social – emotional hijacking and ensure our future leaders are able to communicate, verbally and non-verbally. 

In case you need more data

Not surprisingly, the movie floods the audience with a myriad of facts and stats to chew on.

  • Boys spend an average of 11.3 hours per week video gaming
  • 40% of 9 year olds have played Grand Theft Auto
  • Video games decrease empathy, cause desensitization, and increase aggressiveness
  • Devices prevent children from building relationships
  • Children imitate what they see on a screen
  • Electronics captivate to the point where children don’t eat, drink, or sleep
  • 40% of children do not participate in extracurricular activities

Grand Theft Auto giggles

During the film, the above stat, 40% of 9 year olds have played GTA. While talking about the game, the audience was watching example footage. We see a cartoon animated male and female on the street.  The male character strikes the female, knocking her to the ground.  

Admittedly, I silently chuckled at the ridiculousness of the game.  Certainly, the act of a man striking a woman, is NOT condoned nor do I find ANYTHING about that type of abuse funny.  However, I am a grown up and know what acceptable behavior looks like. Obviously, abusing women is completely unacceptable. 

Diminished emotional responsiveness

What struck me, was the young woman sitting behind, likely 12 years old, who actually laughed out loud.  This got my attention as well as the women that attended the movie with me. After viewing Screenagers, the mom group who attended the movie, went out for a discussion session.  Interestingly, we all heard and noted the young woman’s reaction and found it disconcerting.  

Those girls and their social media

One quote in the movie went something like this, “There is no finish line with social media for girls.” This segues into filters, images bombarding you with what you should or shouldn’t look like, etc.  The creators lost me on this part.  

As a teenage girl, I loved to read my Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour magazines.  Every cover girl was airbrushed, sculpted, and chiseled. Filters on your selfies are no different from the model on the cover of the magazine looking absolutely perfect.

More importantly, what our young female population is suffering from today is, exposure to tutorials on self-harm, lack of inclusion, and public ridicule with no escape.  All leading to an incredible deficit in self-confidence and self-esteem. 

Treatment facilities

Sadly, toward the end of the movie, we are presented with families who have children with true technology addiction.  These are the kids engaging in 10-12 hours of daily screen-time. They can’t live without it. Resulting in, withdrawal and isolation from family. 

Fortunately, there are facilities such as Restart Rehab Center in Washington state.  This facility provides psychological education, good food, sleep, exercise and DETOXIFIES a child from tech.  This is done by giving them ZERO access to devices. They aren’t “teaching” them responsible use, or screen time limits.  Simply, NO TECH EXPOSURE!

In conclusion

As the film concludes, Dr. Ruston tout’s her Tech Talk Tuesday.  While I subscribe to her weekly newsletter, I often disagree with the altruistic tips suggested to the reader.  Additionally, she talks about our youth engaging in more physical get togethers. However, she contradicts by urging us to hone in on assisting our children with digital citizenship.  Teaching kids to be mindful, responsible, and safe when interacting digitally. 

Ooops, you forgot one thing

Regardless of limits, mindfulness, and responsibility, Dr. Ruston leaves out one integral detail. Might I also highlight the MD part at the end of her name. She fails to address that the brain is STILL affected by screen time. The SCIENCE and research is the biggest concern here.  Under developed brains and exposure. Evidence through brain scans displaying disruption to white matter. Forget the digcit, intentional use, and all that jazz. The brain is being damaged.  

Ironically, the movie wraps up with images of kids playing. No screens are in the pictures.  If you’re going to end your documentary, which is all about healthy and balanced interactions with technology, where are the images depicting that? I rest my case.

Go along to get along

Screenagers is so well received, because it allows parents to feel ok about blindly navigating the digital world. The “we’re all in this together” approach is always more comforting than taking an extremist position.  It’s always lonelier to pioneer and crusade for a cause that the majority wants to get behind, but are too fearful.  Not nearly as popular, but a battle worth fighting for. 

Bottom line, the world of Russian Roulette parenting is not okay. It’s risky and unstable for our children.  Future leaders need security and solid direction. They don’t need to be guinea pigs in the biggest uncontrolled experiment the modern age has ever seen.

Do you use screen time for reward and punishment?

It’s time to set limits in your home.

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