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Parents receive viable tips from ‘Screenagers’ event

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Over 150 people attended the viewing of the film “Screenagers – Growing up in the Digital Age” shown Monday, Feb. 26 at the Centennial Middle School Auditorium.  

The film delves into the topic of how much time children and teens are spending on computers, tablets, cell phones and other electronic devices and the possible effect it has on their health and well-being.  

The film, directed by primary care physician Delaney Ruston, the mother of two teenagers, explores the pull that electronic devices have on kids and what it means to parents. The film shows examples of several kids whose experiences with devices have caused them extreme emotional damage and the effect it had on their families.  

Ruston explains there are two main points known regarding this topic. The first is that the frontal cortex of the brain, which is responsible for impulse control and decision-making, is not fully grown until our 20s. The second is it is known that while engaging in screen time, the brain releases the chemical dopamine in the reward center of the brain. It is in this stage of life — adolescence — where we are most susceptible to the release of dopamine.  

After the film, several local leaders of the community presented a panel discussion for the audience.  The panel consisted of Scott Johnson, Centennial Schools executive director of teaching and learning; Dr. Indrani Saha, Fairview Health Services; Therese Kunick, Centennial High School psychologist; Corinna Morse, Centennial Middle School (CMS) counselor; DeeAnn Sibley, Centennial High School counselor; Mary Healy, Anoka County Library Centennial branch manager; and Sarah Holmboe, early childhood and school readiness coordinator.  

Scott Johnson explained Centennial Schools has not adopted a one-to-one policy in regards to technology, meaning students are not assigned to their own laptop or electronic device.  “We’ve not found a lot of positive research indicating that it has great effects on student success,” he said. He also stated that the district has no plans to implement a one-to-one plan any time soon.

Dr. Saha, who has seen an increase in anxiety, headaches and stomachaches in her teenage patients, gave some suggestions for parents. “Have regular alarm clocks, do not keep electronics in the bedrooms and be a good role model, set limits for yourself,” she said. “Make sure you are doing some form of physical activity on the weekends. Have that conversation with them and tell them why.”

Sibley encouraged sticking to boundaries you have set for your children. “Limits help make kids feel supported,” she said. 

Community Education Director Cori Sendle was pleased so many came out to view the film. “It tells me this is a topic that is weighing heavily on the minds of a lot of parents these days,” she said. “I feel we were able to provide information so that parents could walk away with viable tips and a means to start the conversation with their kids,” she said.

Several Centennial School District administrators were also on hand at the event, including Superintendent Brian Dietz and CMS Principal Bob Stevens.

Submitted by Centennial Community Education 

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