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With this enthusiastic, info-taining documentary Jon Hyatt runs the risk of stating the bleeding obvious by elaborating on facts everyone is already aware of: staring at your phone for too long is bad for your mental health, evidence is growing of the harmful impact of screens on children’s brains, tech companies design apps to exploit our cravings (and get hold of our data). Hyatt pushes his folksy voiceover too far – “Gee, do I love my phone” – as he goes cold turkey from social media (and cuts his kids’ screen time), but he’s an affable presence.
The film is a zippy 71 minutes, featuring interviews with numerous psychologists and mental health experts whose book-filling theories are condensed into 60-second snippets. (Ideal, since we’re told attention spans are down from 12 seconds to eight, one less than that of a goldfish.) A lot of the information here feels anecdotal rather than scientific; Hyatt repeats the agonising story of the screen-addicted parents in South Korea who were arrested in 2010 after their three-month-old baby starved to death while they raised a virtual child online.
Hyatt focuses a chunk of the film on children’s wellbeing. One psychologist frets that boredom and mind-wandering, so important for nurturing creativity, are disappearing from kids’ lives. There’s a visit to a $40,000-a-year school in California popular with Silicon Valley execs, where technology is banned for under-14s and children are instead encouraged to climb trees. Psychologist Jean Twenge, who coined the phrase “iGen” to describe kids born after 1995, has studied the correlation between smartphone use and rising levels of depression, self-harm and suicide among adolescents.
If you’re a parent whose screen-time rules have crumbled in lockdown, under no circumstances watch this film until normal service resumes.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Screened Out review – screentime doc knows how to press your buttons | Film