SCREENAGERS Viewing Elicits Important Discussions

Sharon Lowry presents to teens and their parents on screen time and balance.

Close to a hundred people – including many teenagers – packed the Dr. Charles P. Conroy Auditorium Thursday night for the premiere viewing of the movie SCREENAGERS. This is an award-winning documentary on mental health and screens meant to be viewed by young adults and their parents in the hopes of starting a discussion. Here at Perkins, a discussion was definitely started under the expert facilitation of Sharon Lowry and Bridget Matte; both Perkins employees with numerous years of clinical experience.

The discussion centered around the power of social media and the Internet and the difference between digital natives (teenagers), and immigrants (parents and other adults). “As immigrants, it is our job to constantly play catch up while learning how to parent in a brand new world,” Bridget said. “The purpose of parenting is to protect and prepare our children to survive and thrive in the kind of society in which they’ll live.  And it’s the last caveat that gives us the important context to our work as parents – the kind of society in which they’ll live – and, we can’t deny that our kids live in a high-tech world.”

Many teenagers also spoke out noting the peer pressure associated with the electronics and their craving for balance. Many teens would like the opportunity to chat with friends over dinner or have a real conversation with others they are in a room with, but phones and other electronic devices have replaced the need for that skill in this impressionable age group.

Bridget Matte speaks about the difference between an immigrant and a native in terms of digital media.

Sharon noted the reason for this. “This is a great distraction from the business of learning to cope in a social environment,” Sharon said. “Many people hide behind their electronics and, while in the moment it feels like a good solution, it keeps us from building other important skills or coping mechanism when we experience anxiety. Our electronics – phones particularly, become an escape from the difficult, but not impossible work, of learning to manage anxiety.”

It is the hope of both Sharon and Bridget that this served as an important jumping off point to begin the conversation around dinner tables, in small groups, and in school settings. “This is a powerful and relevant documentary on the impact of digital media,” Sharon said. “Our hope is to bring parents and teenagers together to begin a conversation on finding balance navigating the digital world we live in.”

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