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Recap of the PACT Town Hall: Screenagers

Filed in Community/PACT, Events, News, Parents by on March 25, 2017 • views: 590
Screenagers Marquee

Screenagers on the Picture House Marquee Photo Credit: Silmara Sucena

There was a packed house at the Pelham Picture House on Tuesday, March 21, 2017, when almost 200 people attended the showing of the documentary film Screenagers. In attendance were parents of elementary, middle, and high school students, school administrators, and counselors. The event was held as a Town Hall sponsored by Pelham PACT, Community Care Center, and the Pelham Middle School PTA.

The film touched on several different aspects of teenage screen use—cell phones, gaming, social media—presenting something for parents and youth of all ages to consider. The director frames the film around her family’s decision to buy her teenage daughter an iPhone, capturing the tension-filled discussions between parents and children; the attempts at honest and open dialogue; and the very real clash of generations. Screenagers also reveals some of the science behind the impact of screens on the teenage brain and the role they play in teen culture. The film offers a nice balance of facts, expert opinion, and the real-life struggles of young people facing this situation, and how families have had to learn to communicate in new and more open ways.

Right away, Screenagers delves into the reality of how prevalent and pervasive screens are in teens lives. For example, teenage youth spend an average of 6 ½ hours per day on screens, not including homework time; and in 2015, 68% of high school students started high school with a cell phone. In parallel, the director interviews several medical experts who share the current research on the negative effects of overstimulation on brain cells, and the realities of the undeveloped portion of the adolescent brain that knows how to resist temptation—and therefore control their use of screens. Other experts shared the impact of screens on the formation of relationships and connections and an undeveloped sense of empathy. One expert stated, “The digital world is good for the maintenance of relationships, but not the building.” A teen may be losing the opportunity for and practice at forming and nurturing human contact and connections: making eye contact, positive body language, and the power of human and personal contact.

The youth voice in Screenagers is equally as compelling. Discussions with young people reveal some of the reasons why they feel the need for a phone in social situations (“it helps me look busy in awkward situations”). Another teen discusses the fact that screens help fill his downtime and serve as a way to relax when he is bored. The film takes a turn into the video gaming industry, as well. Personal stories of Digital Rehab and real-life family struggles are particularly poignant.

Several PMHS students spoke on the panel after the film: (l to r) Daniel Tahbaz, Amanpreet Singh, Angelina Rosa, and Tess Darrow. | Photo Credit: Silmara Sucena

Interestingly, Screenagers refutes the claim that the “over-scheduled child” is problematic. In fact, the experts in this film state that because 40% of adolescents nationally do not have after-school activities, they are drawn to screens because of boredom. In fact, the film states that adolescent boys spend 11.3 hours per week playing video games in this downtime. The implication is that teens need more structure, more opportunities, more activities that are of interest and available to them. This is exactly what PACT and Pelham LOFT (Local Opportunities For Teens) are trying to do for Pelham teens with upcoming events such as the Kahoot! Trivia Night and Field Fest. Teens are encouraged to join weekly YLC meetings at J Café (see our Youth Page for more details).

The director leaves the audience with a sense that managing the digital world for our youth is a community responsibility. PACT could not agree more. PACT stands for Parents and Community Together as a force to support and guide our teen youth. In order for them to make healthy screen decisions, we need to educate ourselves and talk to our kids about that world; show them we care by including them in discussions about setting limits; guide them in making eye contact, shaking hands, and positive body language; and model a balance and limits on our own screen time, just to name a few examples.

Screenagers Panelists

Panelists from the post-film discussion: PMHS students Daniel Tahbaz, Amanpreet Singh, Angelina Rosa, and Tess Darrow, with PMS Staffer Sharon Charles and Student Assistance Services’ Andrea Fallic. Photo Credit: Silmara Sucena

The panel at the end of the film included PMHS students Daniel Tahbaz, Tess Darrow, Angelina Rosa, and Amanpreet Singh; Sharon Charles, from PMS, Margaret’s Place; and Andrea Fallic, LCSW, of Student Assistant Services. The conversation was a chance to enhance the experience with discussion, perspective and suggestions. This topic is clearly of importance to our community, and PACT hopes that this is just the beginning of a discussion that continues in Pelham.


Photos by: Silmara Sucena

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