At Town Hall January 24, Burrillville parents & students will look at growing up in the digital age

Delaney Ruston

BURRILLVILLE – According to researchers, the average kid now spends 6.5 hours a day looking at screens – and that number goes up for teenagers, who now spend an average of 8.5 hours daily – just on social media, gaming and texting alone.

With more than half the day spent scrolling and so much of their lives taking place in the digital realm, it’s undeniable that technology has led to changes for today’s kids, in everything from learning and perception, to mental health, and relationships with family and peers.

It was this premise that led physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston to launch a documentary series exploring the effects of growing up in the digital age with a program that, “probes into the vulnerable corners of family life and depicts messy struggles over social media, video games and academics.”

“The film offers solutions on how we can help our kids navigate the digital world,” notes a write up on the Delaney’s series, Screenagers.

On Wednesday, Jan. 24, Burrillville families will have the chance to watch the third installment, dubbed Under the Influence, and hear a panel of local people discuss the topic, including representatives from the fields of medical and mental health, law enforcement – and the students themselves.

The event, put on by the Burrillville Prevention Action Coalition, will also include free pizza for attendees, along with the film viewing and live discussion, marking the latest installment in the organization’s annual community, “Town Hall,” events.

“This is open to families in Burrillville. We’re trying to gear it toward middle and high sschool parents and students,” explained BPAC Coordinator Monica Blanchette.

The first two installments of Screenagers, “Growing Up in the Digital Age,” and, “The Next Chapter,” have been shown at various local youth events since the first was released in 2016. But Blanchette notes the each installment stands alone, and viewers do not need to watch the previous two to fully understand the topic.

The film series had been a nominated for awards at six different film festivals and cited in numerous national news accounts, including features on PBS and ABC.

On January 24 starting at 6:30 p.m. at The Assembly Theatre at 26 East Ave., families will view the recently-released third installment, presented by coalition with help from Student Assistance Counselors Katie Hamel and Haley Catelle, and School Psychologist Joelie Harrington.

“This stood out to us in particular because it’s how screens impact substance use,” explained Blanchette of the selection. “It’s geared toward addressing vaping, drugs and alcohol in the digital age.”

After the film, Blanchette will lead the panel, a discussion between youth and local doctors, psychologists, counselors and law enforcement, with a talk organizers hope might continue even after guests leave the theater.

“My hope is always for parents and their teenagers to engage in conversations about making healthy choices,” said Blanchette.

The free event is open to the community, but RSVP is requested here.


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