The New York Times this week covers a new documentary called “Screenagers” which takes a look at the tired story of children who can’t resist the pull of electronic devices, and their parents who don’t know what to do about it.
Innovative educators who spend time with these screenagers aren’t so worried.Unlike Dr. Delaney Ruston, the director of “Screenagers,” we realize that the screens kids use today, are not the same screens Dr. Ruston grew up watching. Furthermore, the research Ruston points to in the film looks at the effects of passive screen viewing imposed on subjects. Fortunately, this has almost no resemblance to how today’s teens use screens.
Today, technology isn't "done" to students. Rather students use screens as a tool to read, write, calculate, debate, make global connections, develop a learning network and so much more.
The flaw in the film is that it looks at all screen time as equal without the acknowledgement that it’s not about the tool, but how the tool is used. Savvy parents and educators support young people in being self-aware and able to move toward their own personal success. This means kids may be using their smartphones to track fitness, learn a language, study, socialize, and more.
Rather than pointing to screens as the problem, concerned adults need to become more sophisticated and identify if there is actually any problem at all. Are young people not getting enough exercise? Address that. WiiFit anyone? Are they not spending enough family time? Address that. Family cooking blog?
When we stop scapegoating screens and start looking at actual issues, we may be surprised to learn that screens just might be a part of the solution.