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UNIT 3: Living Healthy Lives with Technology


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Themes & Ideas

Mental Wellness



What Students Will Uncover

Students will strategize for how to live a more balanced life with technology through using advice from the movie, independently researching and working from their own ideas.

Lesson Overview

This lesson takes a deeper look at one of the main themes from the film: achieving balance with tech. It works well for educators to run...

  1. As a follow up to the Screening and Class Discussion Lesson Plan

  2. Independently, if you already know this is a subject you want to explore in particular.

We recommend that students watch the film prior to (or as part of) this lesson, but relevant clips are embedded throughout the guide if students do not have time to watch the whole film, or if they need a refresher on its content.

The lesson is organized around activities that can be completed during a class period. Educators are encouraged to review the lesson activities beforehand to assess suitability for class timing and teaching style. Educators can select and arrange the activities in a way that suits them, which can include choosing to run activities over multiple periods, or setting activities as homework assignments.

Lesson Objectives

  • Understand the research around how technology impacts their attention span and brain development
  • Consider the ways that technology impacts how we relate to friends, family and peers
  • Develop an understanding of what good digital citizenship looks like
  • Take strategies and advice from the movie and come up with their own
  • Compare their own experiences with those of the subjects in the film, utilizing empathy and understanding

Lesson Materials


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.

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 media tools like social media and the internet to learn, create, communicate and work.

Media literacy — the ability to analyze, create and evaluate media in a variety of forms, from movies to the internet to books.


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

The Film in Context


Lesson Introduction

Opening Discussion

  • Ask students to recall the film they recently watched (Screenagers: Growing Up In The Digital Age).
  • Prompt student recall by asking some general questions to ensure they remember.
How do you balance the technology in your own life?
Did watching the film give you any new ideas for how to balance tech? 
  • Explain that in today's lesson, you will be taking a closer look at one of the main themes of the film: achieving balance with technology and completing a number of activities together.

Before The Movie

Play The Film

Play Film Not available in preview

Lesson Activities

Activity 1

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Screen Time Interviews (homework)

Students work individually.

Interview 10 people in your life—friends, family or peers—about the amount of time they think they spend on screens a day. Have them choose from these categories: none, under three hours or over three hours. 

Calculate: what percentage of the people you interviewed don’t use social media at all? What percentage use less than 3 hours a day and what percentage use more?

Reflect: did the data you collect surprise you? Are people in your life on social media more or less than you thought?

Key Learning: Students collect data and use the information they find to make new assumptions about the world they live in.

More discussion questions and movie clips relating to "Screen Time Interviews": 

Screen frustrations

Delaney uses her own family as an example, in this clip below, of the struggle many parents and children face when it comes to balancing screen use. When she tries to have a conversation with her daughter, Tessa, about what her screen time limits should be, Tessa tells her that she doesn't need any screen time rules.

Delaney talks to a mother in the clip below, who explains how her frustrations have boiled over the edge in the past when it comes to her daughter's use of screens.

Do you agree with Tessa that there are no downsides to screen addiction? Why or why not? 
If you were responsible for younger kids, would you have any screen time rules for them?

Activity 2

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Journaling Exercise (homework assignment) 

Students work individually and then discuss with classmates. 

Research shows that grappling with our emotions is one of the first steps to take when building self-control. See if you can keep a journal every day for a week cataloging your emotions and impulses. 

Sample questions to ask yourself when journaling

Reflect with a group or alone: did keeping a journal help you feel more in control of how you were feeling? Did it impact how quickly you made decisions? What did your journal teach you about yourself?

Key Learning: Students practice emotion regulation and self-awareness by taking the time every day for a week to track how they are feeling at any given moment.

More topics, discussion questions and movie clips relating to "Journaling Exercise": 


Self-control is a hugely important skill which is crucial for finding balance in any situation.

In the film, Delaney is surprised to learn that self-control is something that a child can develop over time.

Psychologists have observed in studies that parents can help children strengthen their self-control “muscle” through practice. Children benefit from having consistent adult support in learning self-control.

It takes a lot of self-control to be able to turn off a video game or stop a streaming service from autoplaying the next episode in a series.

And because they are in the process of developing their self-control, kids have a much harder time of resisting tech temptations than adults do.

Kids on self-control

In the clip below, Delaney speaks to some kids about their own struggles with finding tech balance.

After a 1:1 program was implemented at her school, in the clip below you see the teen, Excel, talking about her struggle to regulate how she used her device. Eventually, her grades saw a decline.

Do you relate to any of these kids' quotes?
How would you assess your own self-control?

Experts on self-control

Research psychologist and educator Larry Rosen explains that the young, undeveloped brain is highly impulsive and often distracted. A lot of work has to be done in order to develop adequate self-control, but once it is developed, it is hugely helpful in all aspects of life.  

Do you agree that kids are "constantly distracted," as Larry Rosen put it?

Leading adolescent researcher Laurence Steinberg, PhD asserts that self-control helps people function better academically, socially and emotionally.

He even goes so far to assert that it can be a better predictor of academic success than anything else.

Activity 3

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Emotion Exercise (20 mins) 

Students work individually. 

Create a visible representation of the emotion you are feeling right now. Draw it out on paper, create it using your device, etc. 

Reflect: what do your classmates’ visual representations look like? Students should share their representations if they feel comfortable doing so.

More topics, discussion questions and movie clips relating to "Emotion Exercise": 

Avoiding with screens

Clinical psychologist Laura Kastner, PhD, notes in this clip to the left that screens can provide a refuge during adolescence, when social situations are often awkward.

Do you notice peers using screens to avoid socially awkward situations? Do you ever use your screen to avoid awkwardness?

It is through social interaction and challenges that we develop our self-esteem and our sense of self.

Activity 4

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Tech Tools for Balance (15 mins) 

Students work individually. 

Research a few apps and platforms that are intended to help people limit their screen time. Make a list of some that you feel like could help you or your classmates. We do have some on the Screenagers website on this page

Reflect: students should share why they chose the apps / platforms on their list. 

Key Learning: Students explore resources that might be helpful for balancing the time they spend online.

More topics, discussion questions and movie clips relating to "Tech Tools for Balance": 

Setting limits

Chris’s grandma is concerned that he spends too much of his time playing video games, and she struggles to get him to reduce his playing time. She consults a counselor and learns that it is actually helpful to set limits and boundaries for kids. We all live with boundaries as adults and it’s important to learn about boundaries early on.

Chris's story is documented in the film.

Do your parents have boundaries for you like the ones Chris’s grandma set for him? 

The counselor also encourages Chris’s grandma to help Chris explore other activities and interests, which they do together.

Students’ “screens-off” strategies

Do you have strategies or apps you use to keep yourself from being distracted by screen entertainment when you need to focus on homework?

In this clip below, you hear from a student sharing some of her go-to techniques for keeping herself off screens while trying to get her homework done.

This student in the clip below explains his friend group's rules about phones when they're out together.

Not enough afterschool activities

According to the Afterschool Alliance, 50% of children in the U.S. do not have access to after school activities. This number has gone up by about 10% in the last six years, creating a discrepancy where kids who do not have access might end up spending a lot more time on their devices. Meanwhile, extracurricular activities are associated with better academic performance, better behavior and improved self-esteem. This lack of access disproportionately affects poorer Black and Latinx families.

Are you involved in afterschool activities? If so, how do you think they’ve shaped your life and learning? 

Screen time balance

The Screenagers website contains many resources for making a plan to balance screen time in our lives.

Do you think you balance your screen time in a healthy way?
What have you observed about the way the adults in your life use their technology?

Ultimately, Delaney and her family implement multiple strategies, including creating a Screen Time Contract with Tessa’s input, keeping violent video games out of the house, and making sure both children spend time on interests outside of their devices. They also resolve to meet weekly for short conversations about how technology fits into their lives, discussing both its positive and negative aspects.

Activity 5

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Digital Citizenship Guide (20 mins in class, project completed as a homework assignment) 

Students work collaboratively. 

  1. Stand at the board and ask your students what proper digital etiquette looks like.
  2. Write down their answers, adding some of your own if they aren’t mentioned. 
  3. Have your students divide themselves into a few small groups. 
  4. In their groups, students will be responsible for coming up with their own digital citizenship guide. These guides can take a variety of forms: a physical poster, a social media account, digital slides, etc. However, they must be able to explain why they chose the format they did for their guide. 
  5.  Give them about half an hour or make this a homework assignment that they will share in class the next day. 
  6. Have each group present their guide. 

Key Learning: Students collect data and decide how to present that data in a way that will be most effective with their audience.

More discussion questions relating to "Digital Citizenship Guide": 

Digital citizenship programs at schools teach students strategies around the safe and ethical use of technology. Find links to digital citizenship curriculum programs in the Resources section of the Screenagers website.

Does your school teach digital citizenship? How would you describe responsible digital citizenship?

Lesson Conclusion

End the lesson with a wrap up discussion. Ask students if they feel better prepared to balance technology with their in-person relationships and activities. Consider making a list of some of the strategies students use or plan to use in the future.

Further Reading

For Educators

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For Students


CASEL® SEL Competencies

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

  • Social Awareness: Understanding influences of organizations and systems of behavior.
    Understanding and expressing gratitude.
    Identifying diverse social norms, including unjust ones.
    Demonstrating empathy and compassion.
  • Self-management: Self-discipline and self-motivation.
  • Relationship Skills: Showing leadership in groups.
  • Self-awareness: Integrating personal and social identities.

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


  • A. THINK — Understanding the ethical use of information, technology, and media.
    Responsibly applying information, technology, and media to learning.
  • C. SHARE — Sharing information resources in accordance with modification, reuse, and remix policies.
    Disseminating new knowledge through means appropriate for the intended audience.
  • D. GROW — Inspiring others to engage in safe, responsible, ethical, and legal information behaviors.
    Personalizing their use of information and information technologies.


  • A. THINK — Developing new understandings through engagement in a learning group.
  • D. GROW — Actively contributing to group discussions.


  • D. GROW — Reflecting on their own place within the global learning community.


  • B. CREATE — Generating products that illustrate learning.
Related Movie
Screenagers: Growing Up In The Digital Age

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