How much is too much screen time? ‘Screenagers’ film addresses real concerns

By Sue Cody


Are you concerned about how much time your child spends in front of a mobile device, tablet, computer or television? Are they gaming for four hours a day? Does their screen time interfere with homework or physical activities?


If you are concerned, you are not alone. Parents, pediatricians, educators, scientists and health care professionals all are dealing with the effects of screen time on children and teens.


If you would like to learn more, two free showings of a film, “Screenagers: Growing up in a Digital Age,” are being held in Clatsop County. A grant from the Oregon Health Authority allows Clatsop County Juvenile Department’s Prevention Program to sponsor the screenings. More showings will be held in Knappa, Seaside and Cannon Beach.

On Friday, Nov. 3, a free community dinner and showing will be held at Warrenton Grade School. Dinner is at 5 p.m., and the film starts at 6 p.m. Free child care is provided.


The film is not rated, but appropriate for children of middle school age or older, or by parental consent.


A matinee will be shown at 2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 4, at the Columbian Theater Voodoo Room in Astoria, 1114 Marine Drive.


Screen effects on children


“What are the effects of screen time on childhood development, as well as best practices?” asks Darcy Cronin, juvenile prevention specialist and facilitator for Northwest Parenting. “How can we set boundaries as a parent or as a culture that are age appropriate? That is the challenge.


“‘Screenagers’ is a must-see film for parents or grandparents of kids at any age. By the time your children are teenagers, they probably already have their phone, already have their norms.”


Film director and physician Delaney Ruston turned the camera on her own family and others —revealing stories that depict messy struggles over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction. Interwoven into individual stories, are cutting-edge science and insights from thought leaders and brain scientists, who present evidence on real changes happening in the brain.


“Screenagers” goes beyond exposing the risks of screen time, but reveals multiple approaches on how parents and educators can work with kids to help them achieve a healthy amount of screen time.


The film is only one hour and 10 minutes long, so there isn’t a huge time commitment, Cronin says.


Setting boundaries for screen time


Establishing boundaries for screen time is important for parents with young children, because there are ongoing ramifications as the brain develops, says Cronin.


“What is good for one age isn’t good for another. Because that information is so new, most parents don’t know what limitations or boundaries are appropriate.”


All screens are not created equal, she says. Television is more benign than tablets, computers and phones. “The rapid-fire nature of images changes the wiring in our brains. Kids’ brains aren’t ready to process the information at all stages.”


A growing problem is teen online gambling, according to Cronin. There aren’t effective ways to monitor the ages of game players. The film highlights how video games lead some users to addiction and problem gambling.


One big draw is eSports, in which people online watch people playing simulated sports in video games and betting on outcomes. SuperData estimated that approximately 71.5 million people worldwide watched eSports in 2013.


Making a plan


The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports media can influence how children and teens feel, learn, think and behave. It encourages parents and caregivers to help children form and practice healthy media use habits by creating a family plan.


Generally, the AAP guidelines recommend:


0-2 years: Media use should be very limited and only used when an adult is standing by to co-view, talk and teach. For example, video-chatting with family along with parents.  


18 to 24 months: If you want to introduce digital media, choose high-quality programming. Use media together with your child. Avoid solo media use.


2 to 5 years: Limit screen use to no more than one hour per day. Find other activities for your children to do that are healthy for their bodies and minds. Choose media that is interactive, nonviolent, educational and prosocial. Co-view or co-play with your children.​


6 to 18 years: Parents should set limits on social media, and distinguish between productive time and entertainment.


AAP offers family media plans for age-appropriate screen time. For more information and tech tips, see:


The Way to Wellville and its sponsor, Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization support healthy lifestyles and positive parental influences.

Screenagers Astoria
Screenagers Warrenton