The Bar-On Brief: Where the “Screenagers” movie showing fell short

Hint: It wasn’t the content

By Shauli Bar-On , Columnist

Photo courtesy of
The Bar-On Brief: A weekly column

The PTSA hosted the screening of “Screenagers,” a documentary about the dangers of teenagers using their cell phones and playing video games, in the auditorium on Mar. 15.

The film lasted over an hour and discussed a variety of topics including social media, video games and the impact of the cell phone on student wellness.

The films goal was to inform parents about the best way to discipline their children regarding cell phone usage. But it was students who needed to watch this video.

Looking at the crowd, I could see only a handful of students sitting with me in the overwhelmingly adult audience.

In an hour-long movie, everyone would be able to find something that relates to their life, whether it be the type of screen usage, statistics on after school activities or anecdotes that sound painfully familiar.

In the panel discussion after the movie, one of the parents suggested having students watch the video during school time. Despite that being impractical due to scheduling, I was surprised to hear there was a financial burden as well.

One of the PTSA volunteers said the organization had to spend $695 to screen the movie, and it would have costed $5,000 to screen it with a professional facilitator to present along with it.

Assuming the PTSA’s figures are true, this is absolutely insane. Why would a documentary that contends it wants to help parents and kids alike by informing them charge so much for the right to view its content? Shameful.

In any case, here is a summary of the important parts of the film. The documentary can be divided into the discussion of three categories: video games, social media and child discipline.

Video Games

The average teenage boy spends 11.3 hours per week playing video games. Forty percent of nine-year-olds play Grand Theft Auto, the documentary reported.

While it is inconclusive whether or not violent games correlate with violent activity, the video spun the facts in a way to show that there was.

Why take the risk?

Social Media

One girl summed it up perfectly: obtaining likes is a competition with no finish line, one that never ends.

One experiment involved men and women who were asked to try on sweaters and bathing suits and then take a math test. It was interesting how the women asked to take a math test in bathing suits scored a lower average score than the women asked to wear sweaters. There was no such difference in the men’s side.

Self-consciousness is normal, but self-confidence is vital. If the depictions of “perfect bodies” posted on social media cause problems at school, then parents need to regulate their usage.

Child Discipline

Leading by example is essential. Parent placing restrictions on children’s screen time while “working” on the laptop until the late hours of the night is hypocritical.

A discussion about technology and recommended daily consumptions with the reasons behind the decisions is necessary. Taking away a phone in the middle of the day in the middle of a texting conversation will understandably frustrate phone users.

The discussion comes down to the following: human contact is irreplaceable. Virtual meetings may be able to sustain relationships, but they cannot create them. It is why the business trip cannot be replaced by the conference call for a new client.  

The best way to defeat technology addiction is for kids to be busy. Only 40 percent of students engage in after school activities, the documentary reported. So 60 percent of students have nothing better to do once they get home.

With that said, forcing a child to pick up the trumpet and learn does more harm than good. Parents can expose their children to a variety of activities, but force never yields positive results. Passion will emerge naturally.


I’m glad I went to the screening. The content was great, and the information was important. But effectiveness of the video could be made more effective by ensuring both its cost and audience’s age is lowered in the future.  

On a side note, while the movie was informative, perhaps the most entertaining moment of the night was when principal Greg Giglio confessed to also using technology for recreation.

“I play solitaire sometimes,” he said. You have to love this guy.

And with that, I rest my case.


The Bar-On Brief is a weekly column that runs Thursdays. 

Follow Shauli Bar-On on Twitter @shauli_baron