By Sami Leder
In advocacy on Tuesday, March 21st, Pin Oak students and teachers were introduced to and discussed a new documentary entitled Screenagers. Screenagers is sponsored by the PTOs of Pin Oak Middle School, Pershing Middle School, and Bellaire High School, and covers the burning and controversial issue of teenagers’ extensive usage of electronics, the internet, social media, and video games in the twenty-first century.
The film was presented on the evening of Thursday, March 30th at Pershing Middle School. During the advocacy lesson, students were encouraged to attend the showing along with their parents, and would be rewarded with a free dress pass and National Junior Honor Society credit if they chose to do so.
To give you a basic idea of the documentary, here is a quick overview:The feature begins with Delaney Ruston, the film’s director, shopping at her local AT&T store with her soon-to-be thirteen-year-old daughter, Tessa. Ruston is faced with the challenge of whether or not to purchase a smartphone for her daughter at Tessa’s request. Subsequent scenes reveal Ruston’s fourteen-year-old son and his obsession with video games, Ruston attempting to set restrictions on electronics in their home, and several other affairs correlated with technology’s effect(s) on teenagers’ families, health, and personal lives, as well as possible solutions to this predicament.
“I feel like teenagers do spend a lot of time on electronics, but there’s really nothing we can do about that,” eighth grader Michael Lewinbuk comments in reply to the first question. “Limiting time might help, but what’s the point of buying your kid a phone if he or she can never use it?”
Most students believed either that choosing whether or not to implement technology restrictions was completely up to the family, or that no limitations should be in place, and adolescents should instead learn to be responsible and self-reliant when dealing with technology rather than having their parents police them around.
Unsurprisingly, most students perceived the media as one-sided when depicting our youth’s interconnection with electronics; “Adults view us as materialistic and narcissistic, but this is how we communicate and interact with each other,” eighth grader Caroline Pace claims. “It’s just how technology has affected us and I think it’s fine.”
Contrastingly, many parents harbored differing perspectives to their teenage counterparts. Most believed that present-day children and teens do spend too much time on their digital devices, and that this preoccupation can have damaging impacts such as lack of or difficulty with engaging in face-to-face contact, reducing attention span(s), throwing off sleep schedules, and simply the deprivation of time to think, read, explore the world, and expand their minds.
Additionally, most parents also firmly support confining teenagers’ device usage. One mother expressed that, “…it’s appropriate and even important to set limits–not just for kids, but for all of us.” Another parent also voiced that parents must take precautions regarding technology, or else unfavorable and even hazardous situations can occur.
Unlike most students, numerous parents deem the media’s narrative of adolescents’ relationship with electronics as unbiased and truthful. “The media accurately portrays this issue in my opinion,” one father stated. “Indeed, they may not focus on it enough.” In addition, another parent also claimed that, “…the media loves that young people use electronics so much. They cater to it and profit from it in many cases.”
Where do you stand on this vexing topic? How can we here at Pin Oak better our school, community, and even world when it comes to electronics, and how do our habits contribute to it? Regardless of your beliefs, strive to improve our world and generation, whether that be with or without technology!