Screenagers: The Next Chapter Explains How to Foster Resilience

Study on Sleep, Communication, and the Three Ex’s of Worry Offers Parents and Teachers a Roadmap

By Norma Richman

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High Point Academy’s first Parent Education presentation of the school year included a screening of the film Screenagers: The Next Chapter and a thoughtful panel discussion led by Learning Specialist Megan Whelan and Social Emotional Specialist Melanie Dosen. The film, a follow-up to the highly successful Screenagers in 2016, focuses on the emotional challenges that teens and tweens face in a world dominated by digital influences. Filmmaker and physician Delaney Ruston interviews researchers, medical professionals, and most importantly, teenagers themselves to look for strategies to promote mental wellness. She follows personal stories of families from an array of backgrounds with a spectrum of emotional challenges, giving viewers hope. We also observe approaches in schools that provide strategies relevant beyond the classroom setting. Most of all, the film offers advice for parents on how to talk with their tweens and teens about mental wellness and how to have short weekly conversations on topics in the film such as stress resilience, emotional agility, and healthy screen habits.

Communication

Practicing communication on a regular basis is one way to set the scene. One teenager in the film noted, When I’m stressed out, it’s kind of helpful just to talk about it with someone because it’s like you don’t want to hold in all that emotion because it’s just not healthy.” The film’s answer is to literally build stronger connections in the brain with one-on-one discussions; and data shows that spending more time with others face-to-face is strongly correlated with greater happiness. Dr. Ruston provides helpful support on initiating parent-child communication in her weekly blog at https://www.screenagersmovie.com/tech-talk-tuesdays​.

Sleep

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“I used to be able to have my phone on my nightstand in my room or whatever. Maybe like a month or two ago, my mom wanted me to become more conscientious about it so now I have to put my phone out in the hallway at 10 o’clock. I think it does help to get more sleep,” stated one  teenager in the film.

​The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends 6 to 12-year-olds get 9 to 12 hours of sleep a night, and 13 to 18-year-olds get 8 to 10 hours a night. Keeping phones and other devices out of their room at night is important. For teens with devices in their bedrooms, 36% report that they wake up and check them at least once a night. Another study shows that just having a phone (or other mobile devices in the bedroom) negatively impacts sleep duration and quality even if teens report not checking them.

The Three Ex’s of Worry

​Author Lynn Lyon recommends teaching “the three ex’s of worry.” This is a great skill for both youth and adults regarding everyday worry.​ ​ Briefly, ​the process is tree-part: Expect​—recognize that worry often arises for everyone at one time or another and practice accepting it; Externalize—personify it and give it a name, such as “Worry” or “Harry”, as in “Hello, Harry. We meet again. ”;​ ​Experiment—try doing the opposite of what the worry demands. Since it does demand attention, instead, don’t get into a discussion with it, but pivot into other activities or thoughts. This takes practice, Lyon says.

What ties all three ideas together is the importance of personal, one-on-one, interaction. Dr. Ruston adds that finding more opportunities for teens and tweens to interact with peers, younger kids, and adults of all ages without their devices can often lead to more optimistic outlooks for everyone.

HPA’s Megan Whelan, Learning Specialist (left) and Melanie Dosen, Social Emotional Specialist (right)

“Such an insightful film to encourage community conversations regarding mental health awareness. I enjoyed that the film captured the progress and pitfalls in supporting our students going through their walk of life. The film encourages more listening and validating and less lecturing and directing. Screenagers is relevant to our developing youth and gives adults tools to help understand and support them.”—Megan Whelan, M.Ed.  

High Point Academy offers its own Social-Emotional Curriculum to promote resiliency skills in all grades. Contact the school for more information. For more resources from the producers of Screenagers: The Next Chapter and their weekly blog installment, check out https://www.screenagersmovie.com/tech-talk-tuesdays​.

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