Screenagers | Quotes & Commentary

Posted on March 5, 2016



About The Film

(From the website): Are you watching kids scroll through life, with their rapid-fire thumbs and a six-second attention span?  Physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston saw that happening with her own kids which started her on a question to delve into how it might effect their development. She learned that on average youth spend 6.5 hours a day looking at screens.  She wondered about the impact of all this time and worried about the friction occurring in homes and schools kids’ screen time was limited— she knew that friction all too well.

As with her other two award-winning documentaries on mental health, Ruston takes a deeply personal approach as she probes into the vulnerable corners of family life, including her 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, SCREENAGERS reveals how tech time impacts kids’ development and also offers solutions on how adults can empower their kids to best navigate the digital world to find balance.


It all started with one question. What new phone to get my daughter because her old phone stopped working?

This is junk when there’s no internet.

Teenagers spend, on average, 6.5 hours a day looking at screens. And that doesn’t include screen time for school work or homework.

The brain is very sensitive to experience. The pre-frontal cortex is especially susceptible. If there is a single trait that is good to have in this world, it is self-control. We know this from hundreds of studies. Kids who have strong self-control do better in school, they have better relationships, they do better in school, they’re happier. It’s actually a better predictor of success than intelligence. That means we have a tremendous opportunity to help build one of the most important psychological capacities that we have.

A kid’s ability to self-regulate can be greatly increased over time, given the right guidance. It’s more malleable than IQ.

There’s a reason why there’s never been a peace treaty signed over a video conference. There’s a reason why the video conference will never replace the business trip. Media is good for the maintenance, but not for the building.

Violent video games were actually developed by the Army to desensitize soldiers. [via: Consider this Atlantic article, Playing War: How the Military Uses Video Games.]

The problem with multitasking, is that though you are doing worse and worse, you feel as if you’re doing better and better.

Overstimulation tires the brain, and it tends to function not as well.

The “digital divide” There’s always been a gap between the rich and poor, but with technology, that gap is getting worse. There’s a new divide which is how these devices are being used.

Hormones intensify the experience of pleasure. Good things feel even better when you’re a teenager.

Can we really tell our kids, “Do as we say, not as we do?”

Research shows that parenting with rules and boundaries but with love and caring promotes better everything; better grades in school, better relationships with their friends and family, everything!

The mistake that parents often make is that they assert their authority without justifying or explaining it in a way that makes sense to their child. Kids are smart enough to know that you don’t follow rules that don’t make sense. When your daughter is not with you, do you want her to do something just because someone says “do it”? Of course not. You want her to ask questions, to challenge, to be inquisitive, to say, “this doesn’t make any sense.” Well if you’re going to raise a child that is going to do all those good things she’s going to do it to you too.

When my parents have that deep conversation, it works a lot better.

We have to do this as a community. We can’t just say it’s on the schools, or it’s on the parents.


Nicholas Carr, Sherry Turkle, Laurence Steinberg, Simon Sinek, Laura Kastner, Peggy Orenstein, Cosette Dawna Rae, and others.


No doubt our world is different because of technology, and the promises it makes allure all of us within its proximity. But what is in doubt is what it is doing to us, our brains, our souls, our relationships, and our identities. Some may say “the jury is still out” on this one. Yet, we press forward in promulgating and celebrating technology’s ubiquity. In the thousands of conversations and interactions I have had on this subject (and will continue to have) the most disheartening response I hear is one of unmitigated acceptance. It often comes in the form of statements like, “Well, this is where the world is going,” or “we’ve always had technological advancements before,” or “we’re never going back to the ‘old days.'” I confess, I am dismayed, distraught, and exhausted at this ambivalent abdication and sentiments like it. Why? It is not that they embrace that which they do not understand. Rather, it is that they do not understand that they do not understand and there is no honest inquiry or doubt which is, in many ways, its own brand of blindness. The hubris of humanity is alive and well.

To this dilemma comes films such as this one, which sets in front of us questions and critiques that must be taken seriously. And it is important to note that answering the questions may not be as important as the mere act of asking them. I hope that this film gets a broad audience, and that those who watch it heed its concerns. At the very least, may it spark conversation, and a heightened awareness.

In addition, throughout the film there are gems of practical advice that help those who are in need of answers now, and an advocacy for the very best of parenting, schooling, and humanity. While there are production values that are a bit lower, such as a slightly scattered script, it is fine for an independent film, and it is just provocative enough to raise significant issues without fear-mongering or bashing technology.

Great intelligence and deep understanding, not mere assertions, not blind acceptance of any theory, but continual awareness, strenuous questioning with delicacy and care, will create within us abiding peace.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti