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updated: 1/28/2019 10:41 AM

‘SCREENAGERS’ showing in District 204 to promote talk of smart tech use for teens

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  • A parents group in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 hopes to open a discussion about how much time students spend looking at various screens with a showing of the documentary "SCREENAGERS."

    A parents group in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 hopes to open a discussion about how much time students spend looking at various screens with a showing of the documentary "SCREENAGERS."
    File photo

 
 

For today's students, there are laptop screens and projector screens at school, smartphone screens any time, laptop screens again for homework after class, and TV screens for shows and games, sometimes late at night.

It all adds up to the average kid spending 6.5 hours a day looking at screens, physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston found as she produced a documentary called "SCREENAGERS."

The message of the film -- that screentime can affect adolescent mental development, family life and academics, but parents and teachers can find ways to help teens strike a balance -- is something parents need to hear, one suburban parent says.

Saily Joshi is chairwoman of the Parent Diversity Advisory Council in Indian Prairie Unit District 204, and she's bringing a free showing of "SCREENAGERS" to parents and students in the community at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, in the Metea Valley High School auditorium, 1801 N. Eola Road, Aurora.

The prevalence of technology at school and at home makes the message from the experts featured in "SCREENAGERS," such as those who specialize in psychology, technology, culture, teen development, children's health, brain science, early learning and parenting, especially valuable in District 204, Joshi said.

"Since our district went to one-to-one technology, we thought this was a good year to talk about this," Joshi said. "I thought it'd be a good conversation-starter."

So-called "one-to-one" technology has become common across the suburbs as school districts have set aside funding and started charging new fees to provide all students of a certain age with personal computing devices to use at school and at home.

In District 204, Chief Technology Officer Adam Smeets said the age for take-home privileges is second grade, when students are assigned a Chromebook. In earlier grades, Smeets said students each have access to a Chromebook or other laptop for use during class at teacher direction only.

Each take-home Chromebook is equipped with web filtering software that blocks certain sites and types of sites based on age, Smeets said, helping ensure the devices remain tools for learning, not gateways to cyberbullying, excessive gaming or technology addiction.

"The district doesn't see right now that we have a problem. The Chromebooks are intentional devices," Smeets said. "The teacher sets the scope for it being a learning tool."

Joshi said she applauds the district for ensuring equitable access to technology by all learners. But the focus on and discussion of technology for learning must continue.

"Even though we have all the technology, I think we really have to continuously look at how best to use it," Joshi said. "Sometimes access to technology doesn't necessarily equate to the best use of it."

That's why the Parent Diversity Advisory Council will host Smeets for a brief presentation at the beginning of the "SCREENAGERS" showing and will leave time for a question-and-answer session at the end. If parents are especially talkative about regulating in-home technology use, screentime or social media behavior, she said the council could incorporate further discussion into its monthly meetings.

To register for a free ticket to the "SCREENAGERS" event, visit pdac.eventcombo.com.