Screenagers: Growing
up in the digital age

GRADE LEVEL: 6-8

Introduction

Themes & Ideas

Technology

Mental Wellness

Social Media

Video Games

Smartphones

School

Relationships

What Students Will Uncover

Increased awareness around their relationships with the technology and people in their lives, considering both the pros and cons of their day to day use of technology.

Lesson Overview

Students will engage in a short discussion to surface some of their initial beliefs about the technology present in their day to day lives (smartphones, video games, internet etc.)

Students will then watch Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age, (42 mins), a film that examines the impact of technology — in particular social media, video games and the internet — on their academic, personal and family lives.

Post viewing, educators can choose to:

  • Continue with this lesson plan, hosting a classroom discussion and short activities covering all main themes of the film, exploring how their perspectives may have changed following the viewing

  • or

  • Host a brief discussion using this overview guide and then switch into our more in-depth lesson plans that dive deeper into particular themes from the film.

Lesson Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Identify both the positive and negative impacts of the tech in their lives.

  • Reflect on their own use of technology in school, at home and in their social lives — thinking about how it impacts their relationships with those around them.

  • Compare their own experiences with those of the subjects in the film, utilizing empathy and understanding.

Vocabulary

Empathy — the ability to understand and share in the feelings of others

Addiction — the urge to do something that is hard to control or stop, even when it’s harmful

1:1 Program — when a school or district provides every student with a digital device meant to enhance their learning

Digital citizenship — using technology and the internet in a responsible and respectful way

Prosocial — relating to behavior that is positive, helpful and intended to help or support others

Away For The Day — policy that ensures that personal digital devices not provided by the school are kept out of sight during school hours

Self-control — the ability to control how we express our emotions and act on our impulses

Digital literacy — the ability to use digital technologies to learn, create, communicate and work

Background

This section is intended for the educator, providing them with information about the film, its themes and topics, as well as tips for how to lead students in an impactful discussion.

About The Film

Are you watching kids scroll through life, with their rapid-fire thumbs and a six-second attention span?

Physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston saw that with her own kids and learned that the average kid spends 6.5 hours a day looking at screens. She wondered about the impact of all this time and about the friction occurring in homes and schools around negotiating screen time — friction she knew all too well.

In Screenagers, Delaney takes a deeply personal approach as she probes into the vulnerable corners of family life, including her own, to explore struggles over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction. 

Through poignant, and unexpectedly funny stories, along with surprising insights from authors, psychologists, and brain scientists, Screenagers reveals how tech time impacts kids’ development and offers solutions on how kids can be empowered to best navigate the digital world and find balance.

The Film in Context

The first Screenagers film is about how the digital age impacts the physical and mental wellbeing, learning and relationships of adolescents.

The film aims to help teens and families minimize the harmful impacts of technology, find creative ways to utilize technology and help each other find balance between their online and in-person lives.

It covers brain development, how school districts are using tech, video game addiction, the pressures of social media and creative ways to use and manage our devices. 

The film includes stories from parents, teens and teachers and showcases the work of researchers who study technological impacts on the adolescent brain and social life.

It combines personal stories with scientific data to provide viewers with a well rounded impression of our digital age and some evidence-based solutions to tech-related issues. 

Lesson

Lesson Introduction

Explain to the students that today you will be discussing the impact of technology and devices in our everyday lives and watching a film that explores this subject. 

Begin the lesson by hosting some general discussion questions with students about technology in their day-to-day lives, aiming to surface the beliefs and attitudes of students

  • What, if any, games, apps and websites do you use? Which are your favorites? Are there any that you are restricted from by parents / guardians? Why do you think they are restricted?

  • Making notes for each on the whiteboard, invite opinions from and try to reach a general consensus from students on the following: (Rating 1 to 5, Using, 1: Very good for them, 3: Neither good or bad, 5 Very bad for them)

    a) Playing video games for 3+ hours each day
    b) Connecting with long distance friends or family via video chat
    c) Quickly replying to a text message during class
    d) Having your smartphone with you at all times
    e) Clicking on unknown links from unknown senders (texts / emails)
    f) Listening to music while doing homework
    g) Scrolling through TikTok while doing homework
    h) Checking social media before going to sleep at night

  • Is there anything about the technology you use, or the way you use it in your day-to-day life that makes you feel unhappy or you think could be unhealthy for you?

  • "We are going to watch a film about this called Screenagers" - Why do you think the filmmaker chose this title? What predictions do you have about what will be in the film? Make notes on the whiteboard for review.

Before The Movie

Explain that you will now together watch the classroom version of the film, which is about 40 minutes in length. Ask students to take notes while watching, using the note-taking sheet provided.

Inform students that their notes will be important for discussions and activities after viewing. Encourage them to pay particular attention for:

  • Information and quotes from expert speakers in the film

  • Personal stories and insights from the subjects of the film

  • Interesting facts and statistics presented

Play The Film

42 Minutes
Play Film
(Non functional - example only)

Related Clips

Cognitive Abilities Of The Young Brain

Is Banning Phones From School The Answer

"Are You Using Your Time Wisely?"

The Truth About Multi-Tasking

Post-Viewing Activities

Post-Viewing Discussion

Engage the students in a short discussion of the film they have just watched, asking them to refer to their notes.

Begin with asking students...

  • Describe the main themes and subjects of the film.
    Did you have predictions for what you'd encounter in this film? Were your predictions accurate?

  • What moments from the film were most memorable or powerful to you?

  • Could you relate to any of the subjects in the film? What about them or their story was relatable?

  • Did any parts of the film make you think about your own relationship with the tech, games, apps, etc. in your life (refer to the earlier whiteboard list for suggestions)?

Activity 1: Reviewing and re-ranking the pros and cons of our tech (20-25 minutes).

  • Split the class into groups of about 3-4 students. Ask each group to nominate one person as the notetaker and presenter for the group.

  • Ask them to review the pros and cons list they developed as a class before the screening.

  • Ask them in their groups to add any new pros and cons they can now think of after watching the film, having the notetaker capture their new ideas — aim for 10 of each (3-5 mins).

  • Ask them in their groups to agree on their top 5 pros and top 5 cons from their existing and new ideas. Circulate amongst groups supporting their discussions and helping mediate any differences of opinion (3-5 mins).

  • Have the presenter from each group read out to the class what their ranking was while the educator make notes on the white board (3-5 mins).

  • Have all students return to their seats. Educator will briefly review the pros generated, identifying common themes and encouraging positive contributions (e.g. "I like using my smartphone to message with my family too").

  • To conclude (2-4 mins), ask students to privately write down one or two suggestions from the film they would consider bringing into their own life and routine.

  • Key Learning: The most powerful ally they have in developing good habits and being able to self regulate is their own self. They are able to generate ideas and make more considerate choices for their own happiness and wellbeing.

Activity 2: Letter writing activity (25-30 mins / homework activity)

Ask students write a letter to one of the young people, parents or experts in the film whose words or experiences meant something to them. The letter might address one or more of the following questions:

  • What did your letter recipient's story, experience or the information they shared mean to you?

  • What questions would you like to ask them?

  • What would you like them to know about you or your experience, related to what you learned about or from them in the film?

Key Learning: They can demonstrate the ability to empathize with the experience of others and relate to them. Where else in their school, social or family lives may this ability be helpful to them?

Activity 3: Poster creation activity (30-45 mins / homework activity)

Including the information learned from Screenagers, along with any additional research (e.g. online research, school library), ask the groups to work together to create a mental health awareness poster, which can take a physical form or a digital form, on one of the following subjects:

a) Social Media
b) Video Games
c) Smartphones
d) Online Streaming (e.g. Youtube / Netflix)

Advise students that the posters are meant to be informative for people around their own age and should aim to raise awareness of the potential harms that can be caused to young people by their subject above.

Students are encouraged to identify the positive side of their subject too, but it should be done in balance with the mental health message they are trying to raise. Share some of these examples to get them started if needed.

  • Social Media: "Social Media is a great way to stay in touch with friends... but don't forget to spend time together in person"

  • Video Games: "Fortnite all night? Get some sleep and build your grades up, not your defences"

  • Smartphones: "Want to be SMART? Leave the PHONE outside your room at bedtime"


Also encourage students to think about including statistics from the film or their own research. They might also be interested in including drawings or pictures to capture attention and convey information, and they should use clear and concise wording so their message is understood.

Key Learning: Students demonstrate they are capable of building upon what they have learned in the film and think about how it applies to the world and people around them.

Lesson Conclusion

Summarize and conclude the lesson by highlighting some of the key ideas that came out of the discussions (particularly if attitudes and ideas changed significantly after viewing the film).

Remember to highlight that technology can be a great positive in our lives but it is important for us all to be mindful of the potential challenges it can bring forth.

Remind students that they have just proved that they can generate ideas for self-regulating. This is particularly helpful if they feel that they may struggle with self-regulating when it comes to technology in their own life.

Ask students to reflect and think upon...

  • The sort of relationship they would like to have with their technology and devices in the future and what they can do to better achieve this balance for themselves.

  • How they can ensure that the technology in their lives is making their relationships with others better and not worse.

  • What small and manageable changes they'd consider making in the future as a result of learning more about this subject.

Frameworks

CASEL® SEL Competencies

Our Curriculum & Lesson Plans are independently aligned to the CASEL® SEL Competencies Framework.

  • Self Awareness: Growth mindset.

  • Social Awareness: Demonstrating empathy and compassion. Taking others perspectives.

  • Self Management: Courage to take intiative.

  • Responsible Decision Making: Anticipating and evaluating the consequences of one’s actions.

AASL Standards Framework for Learners

Our Curriculum & Lesson Plans are also informed by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Standards Framework for Learners. For additional information and resources, including a downloadable format for the Learners Standards Framework, for AASL’s National Standards visit standards.aasl.org.

  • B: Create - Generating products that illustrate learning.

  • C: Share - Sharing products with an authentic audience.

  • D: Grow - Enacting new understanding through real-world connections.