Screenagers – The After Show

Last night I had an opportunity to facilitate a reflection conversation with parents and teens after a showing of Screenagers. Hosted by Lantern Academy, the movie was shown at a local high school with a diverse, engaged, and eager audience. Attendance was fantastic and watching with this group of people made the movie come to life, all over again.

I’ve seen the movie several times, and each time I watch it, I have more understanding of the the science and research behind the impact of technology, but I also have more questions (many more).  This time around I focused on watching from three different perspectives: parent, teacher and user. Looking at it through the lens of a parent, I wonder, “How I can best support my kids in this digital rich world?” Through the lens of an educator I wonder, “What skills and concepts we need to highlight to get students and teachers to think about how we welcome, use, and depend on technologies?” And, lastly, as a user, “I wonder if I’m truly in control of my use.”

With those wonderings in mind, here are my key takeaways from this viewing:

  • Digital technologies, hardware and software are a part of our lives and they’re not going away. We need to find a way to carefully embrace them and enjoy their features while controlling their impulse to strangle us.
  • Kids will do as I do, not as I say –  Modeling expected behaviour is powerful.
  • Find time for dedicated device free conversations  – talk, make eye contact, ask questions.  Talk about the device, but don’t invite the device into the conversation.
  • Learn how to turn off notifications.
  • Preserve sleep. Keep devices out of the bedroom.
  • Get bored – It’s easy to fill space with our phones, tablets, and computers, but there is value in letting the mind wander to work through problems, think about our relationships and

We need to start having conversations, asking questions, and building values into our decisions to use technologies. Blindly turning on and tuning into your device is giving away personal control. It may not seem harmful at first, but slowly, the bings, buzzes, beeps, and red circles will call to you, constantly and without consideration of the rest of your life. It’s a bit like we’ve entered a battle field and our attention is what’s being captured. The more we stare, the more successful ‘they’ become.  (I’m sure it’s no coincidence that both technology companies and drug dealers call their clientele users.) But can arm ourselves with understanding and work to make the invisible, visible.  We can take action and make strides to learn how our tools work, how they keep us engaged, and use them with intention. There is, after all, great magic and possibility in technology.

Resources:

Screenagers Movie (several resources for Tech Talk Tuesday, building a contract at home, and research)

Common Sense Media (“Common Sense is ‘America’s’ leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in the 21st century.”)

Time Well Spent (“Time Well Spent is a movement to stop technology platforms from hijacking our minds, and to start putting our best interests first.”)

Note To Self  – Podcast (A weekly look into the human side of technology)

Bored and Brilliant – Book (Based on an activity conducted on the Note to Self podcast, Manoush Zomorodi dives deeper into the science and research behind the importance and loss of boredom)

Me Me Me – Hidden Brain – Podcast (25 min audio podcast about the rise of narcissism in the age of the selfie)

Sherry Turkle – Ted Talk (“As we expect more from technology, do we expect less from each other? Sherry Turkle studies how our devices and online personas are redefining human connection and communication — and asks us to think deeply about the new kinds of connection we want to have.”

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