Screenagers Documentary: Why I’m Glad My Homeschoolers are Growing Up Homeschooled in the Digital Age

I’m far from the perfect screen time role model for my four homeschoolers. I’m often tethered to my phone.

It’s not uncommon to see my homeschoolers glued to their iPads or laptops either at home, Starbucks, or on the road. They are often tethered to their devices. Although usually they are using their devices for some “school” purpose, such as coding, learning guitar licks, researching travel, or writing.

Screen time is a big part of life in the digital age. Electronic devices play a significant part of our flexible worldschooling, roadschooling, homeschooling life. It’s probably fair and reasonable to say that our lifestyle, which is comprised largely of life on the road and travel, often blending rural country living with the flashiness of life in the Big Apple, is enabled–if not made possible–because of our technology and access to screens and portable online learning.

Our screen love and usage is a consciously balanced effort. We faithfully put down our devices to play, explore, and adventure outside (and outside of home) a lot. That explains why I’m not always good about updating my blog.

We spend a lot of time talking about what we want to do together–how we want our day to unfold, where we want to explore, what activities we’d like to try, what exhibits we’d like to see. We try to ensure that real world adventure and activities rule us, not our digital world. But we’re not perfect at the balance, by any means. There are times when I forget to make eye contact with my kids when I’m on my phone (or forget to put it down) when they are talking. There are times when my kids get annoyed when I remind them that they are supposed to be watching a science video on Kahn Academy or working on a Duolingo language assignment, instead of watching Minecraft videos on Youtube.

When I heard that the NYC Film Premiere of Screenagers was taking pace at a public school in Lower Manhattan, I put it on our family calendar. I had just read about it in Forbes.

The new documentary, Screenagers: Growing up in the Digital Age, filmed by filmmaker and doctor, Delaney Ruston, highlights issues surrounding screen usage, excess screen time, and screen addiction. Importantly, it depicts the struggle that parents, teens, and tweens face when trying to find the right screen time balance. It’s definitely a great film pick for families to watch together, or for parents or tweens/teens, looking for understanding or guidance. Screenagers has the potential to spark real and productive dialogue–parent-child and community dialogue about devices, technology, social media, and societal pressures faced while growing up.

My kids have ranked Screenagers at the top of their documentary list of “favs.” Even my five year old was enthralled and seemed to relate to the film.

I’m glad my homeschoolers are growing up in the digital age. But I know not all parents feel this way. For many families screen time and the effects of teen or tween screen time is a big deal, causing serious impacts on family dynamics, peer choices, mental health, academics, relationships, and finances. Finding a healthy technology/screen time balance is no easy feat.

As we walked out of the public school after watching Screenagers into the bitingly cold Manhattan wind, my homeschoolers each declared that they never want a phone. Even my almost 13 year old. They declared that they’d rather play outside any day over having a phone. I didn’t dare to ask if that also applied to ipads.

“But what about me?” I asked. “Do you think I’m on my phone or computer too much?”

“No. You spend that screen time finding fun stuff for us to do.”

For now, it seems we have a good balance.

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