Recently, the community has come together to address a prominent problem in our society: technology with regards to our youth. As iPhones, iPads, iMacs and video games grow in their popularity, their usage becoming more and more prevalent, middle schoolers and teenagers are increasingly drawn into their devices and away from their education, friends and family. In order to raise awareness about this problem, the Friends of Nantucket Public Schools (FONPS) collaborated with local organizations like The Chicken Box and the Ozone Surf Competition to fund a showing of the documentary Screenagers by physician and film maker Delaney Ruston.
The movie takes on a personal perspective (Ruston’s own family life is shown in the movie) of the negative impacts technology can have on the minds of adolescents and on families as a whole. The film follows instances of gaming addiction, cyber bullying and the use of technology in schools to raise concern about the massive control technology has on young, premature minds. The film also offers insight as to how adults can “empower kids to navigate the digital world,” as Ruton puts it on her website. The film featured a number of experts on adolescent health as well, including Sherry Turkle, professor of social psychology at MIT; Simon Sinek, a prominent TED talk leader and author; Peggy Orenstein, an expert on female adolescent health and author of numerous articles featured in The New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine and Vogue; and many more.
“Screenagers provoked a great conversation after the film amongst parents about living in the digital age. What we grew up with and how things are now in terms of technology and information is drastically different, not necessarily in a bad way,” said FONPS President Hadley Dutra. “What I got out of it personally was that kids want and need limits when it comes to using cell phones and video games and the like.”
The film had three showings on Nantucket. The first was to students in the middle school, then a community screening with a discussion afterwards in the Mary P. Walker Auditorium and lastly a screening during advisory at the high school.
Senior Maggie Visco commented on the screening, saying, “I saw a lot of similarity to myself in the movie. Kids are so addicted to their phones that they forget to be present and actually talk with their friends. It was interesting.”
Other students and teachers agreed.
“It’s very relevant,” said sophomore Jacqui Jordan. “I think kids are getting more and more distracted by their phones these days. Doing homework has become a challenge because my phone keeps going off.”
The community also responded positively, and the Dreamland was almost completely full with parents and community members interested in learning more about the topic. The overall impact of the film was positive, and people took away a lot from learning that they are not alone in their struggle to find balance with the use of technology.
“The film made people think,” said Dutra. “I am checking myself in terms of how often I look at my cell phone, especially when my kids are around.”