GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — In the Fall of 2019, Dr. Delaney Ruston released a follow up documentary to her original film, “Screenagers: Growing up in the Digital Age”, right before we all headed indoors for more screen time, ironically, due to the pandemic.
Her second documentary is titled, “Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER: Uncovering Skills for Stress Resilience” and delves into the stress, clinical depression and anxiety that has been increasing in kids and teens since 2011. “And it actually hit home when my daughter was undergoing long term depression and it really caught me off guard , even as a physician I didn’t have the skills to help her,” Dr. Ruston told Fox 17.
Dr. Ruston explains that teens often go to screens when they’re feeling bad, but that screen often makes them feel worse and says the list of things that have that negative effect is growing. “They can compare and despair. More than ever now with Covid, they can see how they’re being left out of things because they can’t necessarily be in the small bubble that exists of a few friends. The list of YouTubers they are following who seem to still have these perfect lives is very intense. So there is this way that they get sucked in but then the negativity can even come hours later when I talk to teens and kids about this.”
As we all return from pandemic hibernation, Dr. Ruston says it’s important to appreciate the good that screens provided during the past year, but also realize there are two different types of screen time. “There is productive screen time which is all about working, how we learn. And then there’s consuming screen time, watching their shows and scrolling and seeing their feeds and playing their video games,” Dr. Ruston explains.
Another problem is what Dr. Ruston calls the need to “close the loop”. When a teen worries about how their lack of immediate communication or response to a friend may be interpreted, or vice versa. “Social centrality is absolutely the most key thing on their minds. It’s not going to behoove you in life to have the expectation that you can respond all the time,” Dr. Ruston explained to Fox 17.
Dr. Ruston reiterates that studies show kids and teens not only want structure, but do better across the board when there is a screen limit at home, and she says collaborating with them on the rules helps even further. “I had to get better in not just responding in the minute, not just doing a stab and grab where I would stab my kids with my eyes and grab whatever device they had in their hand.”
Undoing what has been done the past year won’t be easy, but Dr. Ruston is clear about what is best for our teens as we go forward. “The data is clear, in-person time with people is associated with emotional well-being, we haven’t been able to do that well with Covid, but now going back to school more and more, we want to foster that. Now more than ever after Covid, we have a unique time to really make sure that we don’t just accept screen saturation, but we all work together to make sure that there’s screen balance.”
For information on either of her documentaries, her book or podcast, check out screenagersmovie.com .