Jewish Family & Career Services explored the effects of digital media on teenage brains with a screening of the documentary “Screenagers” at the Marcus Jewish Community Center on May 22.
The film offers potential solutions to the problems extensive screen time can cause kids, parents and communities.
The documentary features a study in which some baby mice are exposed to digital media on screen, and others are not. The mice exposed to screen time developed fewer cells in the areas of learning and memory, suggesting that the same may be true for humans.
The filmmakers spoke to parents and teens about the ways in which they’ve tried to limit screen time.
One boy in “Screenagers” says that when he and friends go out to eat, they place their phones in the middle of the table, and the first to check a phone pays for the meal. A girl discusses an app that cuts off her Wi-Fi connection when she is doing homework.
“Regulating away and pulling your attention away is such an important skill for your kids to develop,” said Lori Wilson, a clinical psychologist and pediatric neuropsychologist at JF&CS.
Wilson was joined in a panel discussion after the screening by Lynn Mandelbaum, a social worker with the Galloway School, and Max Rubenstein, the founder of Game Givers.
Rubenstein, a student at Galloway, spoke about the challenges his parents face in regulating his screen time.
“It’s really difficult for my mom when I’m off on social media or Netflix or whatever and I need to be doing homework,” he said. “She can’t take away my laptop because I have all my homework on the laptop, so that’s a really interesting debate there.”
“Screenagers” also details the rise in popularity of violent video games. According to the film’s director, physician Delaney Ruston, first-person shooter games were developed by the military to decrease sensitivity to shooting people.