Arts & Culture Maplewood Millburn Schools / Kids South Orange Towns

Brancaccio-Moderated ‘Screenagers’ Forum Drew Large Crowd, Spirited Discussion

A community forum on children’s use of digital technology was presented on Wednesday night in a packed South Mountain Elementary School auditorium.

David Brancaccio (credit Adrianna Donat)
David Brancaccio (credit Adrianna Donat)

The program, sponsored by The Parenting Center, funded by Friends of the South Orange Public Library, and hosted by SOMA School Library Friends, offered a free screening of the documentary, Screenagers. The film was introduced and the later discussion was moderated by Peabody Award winning radio host and author David Brancaccio.

The film discusses the issue of kids’ consumption of digital media, and how parents can help find a balance for children who are increasingly drawn into a world of screens. The movie offers a spectrum of digital use from casual texting with friends to full-on addiction. The difference between types of media consumed by girls (social) and boys (video games) is explored.

Screenagers offers facts for parents to consider. For example, did you know that 68% of all kids starting high school in 2015 owned a smartphone? Or that the availability of information on digital devices releases dopamine into your brain? Or that between 8-15% of all people have what could be described clinically as a digital addiction? However, the film offers more ambiguous answers, e.g.: set boundaries, but allow some digital use.

A vigorous and sometimes heated discussion followed, with SOMA students in the audience noting their parents overuse digital media. This lead to discussions that adults could use some digital boundaries, too.

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