Saline Area Schools hosted a community viewing of the award-winning documentary “Screenagers” on Thursday, October 24 at Saline Middle School. The screening, which was sponsored by the Foundation for Saline Area Schools, was followed up with a panel discussion and question and answer period.
The documentary explores the effects of digital devices on teens and adolescents, and how families and schools can help to find a healthy balance when it comes to screen time. Directed by Dr. Delaney Ruston, the documentary highlighted experts who spoke on the impact of technology on brain development and sleep cycles. It also showcased families who struggled with the effects of screen addiction, video gaming, and social media.
Saline Middle School Principal Brad Bezeau, along with Saline High School principal David Raft, were on hand to explain the school policies regarding cell phone usage and to highlight what has worked for students in the schools.
At the beginning of the school year, when the No Cell Phone policy in classrooms was introduced at the middle school, there was an adjustment period for students and staff.
“Mr. Bezeau was probably the least favorite, least popular person in Saline,” Brad Bezeau said about himself. “We worked through it. We had our initial class meetings. I let them boo me as loud as they could. We got it all out of our system, and then we moved on.”
Lauren Miller, an eighth grader who spoke at the event, says that she has seen positive changes since the policy went into effect.
“If you really think about it, you don’t use your phones in the classroom. If you do, it’s just preventing you from learning anything,” she said.
Miller feels that the policy has helped her and her fellow classmates become more social and engaged.
“I’m seeing just how addicted to my phone I am. If you are talking to somebody and they are on their phone, it kind of feels like you’re talking to a brick wall. They’re not saying anything back to you, they’re not laughing or engaged in the conversation,” she observed.
Her classmate, Maddie Nishioka, agrees. At lunch time, friends used to play games on their phones instead of participating in conversations.
“I just felt really excluded from them,” Nishioka said. “I’d try to tell them stories, but they’d be so engaged in the game that they weren’t listening. This year, I hear a lot of comments like ‘Yeah, I don’t bring my phone to lunch because it annoys me when my friends bring their phones because they’re not listening.’”
Principal Bezeau has seen a positive impact on student interactions this year.
“It’s really been neat to watch students stay away from their phones, bring UNO in and card games. I’ve never seen so much of that happen. I think they’re getting creative around that as well,” he said.
High school students also have their challenges with cell phone usage, which has prompted teachers to find solutions that work in their classrooms.
“We have caddies in all the classrooms that we used to put calculators in. Now, we’re putting cell phones in,” David Raft said. “We do leave it to the teachers to work it out.”
Emma Driscoll, a sophomore and class president at Saline High School, tries hard to balance screen time with homework time.
“For me, at home, it’s basically self-discipline,” she said. “I know when I should be on my phone or when I’m allowed to be on my phone. For the biggest disruption, it’s probably my disruption of learning and homework time. At school, it’s not as big a problem as it is at home. When I’m working on homework at home a lot of the time, I see a notification pop up on my phone and I immediately want to look at it. So in my house, I know I need to get the homework done so I don’t look at the notifications until it’s done.”
Evan Thomas, Saline High School senior and school board representative, uses settings and timers on his Apple iPhone to regulate his usage.
“What I try my best to do is as soon as that time rings, I put it down and don’t touch it for the rest of the night. Sometimes it’s really difficult. A lot of times I can find myself staying away from it. That’s just the strategy I use,” he offered.
Saline High School students will have the opportunity to watch the documentary on Thursday, October 31 during the early release day.