Students gather to watch a film on the digital world they navigate.

Students gather to watch a film on the digital world they navigate.

The digital world poses real challenges for parents and children alike

The challenges of screen time explored

  • Sep. 28, 2017 1:30 a.m.

Tim Collins/News staff

A program presented by the Revelstoke School Division is attempting to tackle the challenges facing both students and their families in the face of a digital revolution that has transformed society without the inclusion of established norms of behaviour.

“Parents are often negotiating the questions about their kids using digital devices while they, themselves, are learning how to cope with those same devices,” said district principal, Ariel McDowell.

“It’s a part of overall health for our students. Some of it is strictly related to physical health, such as the impact the devices have on sleep patterns, but there are other aspects of psychological and social health that comes from the use of devices as well. The amount of time that people spend watching these screens is enormous and we’re just starting to recognize the impact it’s having.”

A major component of the school program involves the screening of a movie produced in California, but applicable to young people everywhere. The film is called “Screen-agers” and it takes an in-depth look at the impact that screen time has on socialization, security, and even brain development. Students from Grades 5 to 12 were shown the film at the Performing Arts Centre, followed by a panel discussion during which student questions were discussed.

One of the panel members, Sgt. Kurt Grabinsky of the RCMP voiced his concerns related to the desensitization of young people to crime and violence as a result of gaming and other things they see on-line.

“A lot of young people, mostly boys, play Grand Theft Auto, for example. That’s happening at the same time as we’ve seen an increase in auto theft and a new trend in the suspects of those thefts failing to stop for police when they’re spotted,” said Grabinsky, adding that he can’t draw a direct correlation between those facts, but suspects a connection at some level.

In fact, the film points out that shooting games played by young people were first developed by the United States military to desensitize soldiers to violence they would face in real life.

Another aspect of on-line life touched on by the film is bullying and Grabinsky was quick to point out that the police have become involved in a number of difficult situations in the recent past.

“Kids, and too many adults, don’t realize that the internet is forever. Nothing ever goes away. And it’s not anonymous either; we can always find out who has sent a threatening or bullying message and charges can result in some cases.”

The initial screening of the film on Friday was for the students, but a second screening occurred in the evening and was specifically aimed at parents who might be struggling with questions surrounding digital devices.

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One parent’s solution

When, in 2012, Janell Burley, was faced with the prospect of succumbing to pressure from her 13-year-old son for an iPhone, she came up with a contract for its use. The idea went viral and, five years later, is still striking a chord with parents in a similar situation.

Here are a few of the clauses of that contract that still resonate today:

  • I will always know the password.
  • Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30 p.m. every school night and every weekend night at 9:00 p.m. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30 a.m. If you would not make a call to someone’s land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text. Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected.
  • It does not go to school with you. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It’s a life skill. *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.
  • Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
  • Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.
  • Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling.
  • You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You and I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.