Perils of the digital world endangering our kids
Public invited to trilogy of Screenagers films beginning May 9th
By some accounts youth are spending an average of 6.5 hours a day on screens – and that’s before classroom time and homework are even factored in. Teenaged boys spend an average of more than 11 hours a week playing video games. And all this while mounting evidence links excessive online use to depression, sleep disorders, addiction, bullying, suicide, sextortion, anxiety and a host of other serious issues.
According to a 2019 Canadian Paediatric Society report, three-quarters of Canadian parents are concerned about how much time children spend using digital media.
With the goals of sparking critical, timely conversations and supporting families, The Stolen Child Project is hosting a series of three free films beginning Tuesday May 9th with a screening of the award-winning documentary Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age. The film examines online-associated issues and offers proven solutions that can help. It will be introduced by The Stolen Child Project founder Loreena McKennitt and moderated by Judy Maddren, a former CBC journalist for 35 years and host of World Report for 16.
Then, on Tuesday May 30th, Screenagers - Next Chapter: Uncovering Skills for Stress Resilience will examine ways to help teens struggling with their emotional well-being and the mental health issues impacted by screen time.
On Tuesday June 13, Screenagers Under the Influence: Addressing Vaping, Drugs and Alcohol in the Digital Age looks at the impact of the digital age on teen decisions involving vaping, alcohol and drugs and examines ways to encourage healthy choices, set limits and build supportive home environments.
All screenings will be held at The Local Community Food Centre, 612 Erie Street from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., and will include the 70-minute film, discussion and questions from the audience. Refreshments will be available.
Parents, grandparents, educators and others are encouraged to attend these films – and to bring their children aged 12 and up since that’s the most suitable age for viewing.
“This is an incredibly loaded issue,” says McKennitt. “And I am not the expert. I’m simply the conduit. It’s my hope that these screenings will not only help youth, parents and educators, but inspire other organizations to take the lead and present them in the future. There is so much at stake.”
The Stolen Child Project plans to re-run them again this fall and in the spring of 2024. Their hope is to bring these critical messages into the local community, while encouraging other groups, congregations and associations to do the same.
Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age, the first in the trilogy by American physician and documentary filmmaker Delaney Ruston, already has five million views in over 90 countries at more than 10,000 events. There is currently an established and growing trend of schools across Canada and the United States showing her films. Audiences have also included Google, Facebook, the United Nations, World Health Organization, Harvard and TEDx.
“This is not a cultural conversation about how children spend their leisure time...screen time has become a medical issue,” warned British doctor Arik Sigman in his 2013 report to the European Union.
‘Are you watching kids scroll through life, with their rapid-fire thumbs and a six-second attention span?’
That’s what Ruston observed with her own two children and what sparked the documentary. She wondered about the impact of all that time and about the friction occurring in homes and schools around negotiating screen time – friction she knew all too well.
This first film takes a deeply personal dive into the vulnerable corners of family life, including Ruston’s own, to explore struggles over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction. Through poignant, and unexpectedly funny stories, along with surprising insights from authors, psychologists, and brain scientists, the film reveals how tech time impacts kids’ development and offers solutions on how adults can empower them to best navigate the digital world and find balance.
Viewers will meet Hannah, a 14-year-old victim of social media bullying who struggled trying to hide her social media use from her mom. And Andrew, whose love of video games turned into an addiction, taking him from earning straight A’s to failing college.
The Stolen Child Project sprang from the Falstaff Family Centre in Stratford, Ontario, both founded by Loreena McKennitt. The goal of the project is to facilitate examinations and discussions around the challenges impacting youth and families in the 21st century. By casting a light on areas of concern it is hoped the issues might be better understood, even mitigated, and that local families will be supported by the process.