Are your teens strung out on tech?

What can we do to help our teens deal with their digital dependencies?


James Martin/CNET

Amy Fleetwood was tired of all the fighting. Her daughters seemed caught up in nearly nonstop texting, watching videos and sending Snaps.

She hoped the big screen would show them what their phones’ small screens were doing to them. So just before Thanksgiving, she took Martha, 13, and Sarita, 16, to see “Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age,” a 68-minute documentary about phone and internet addiction.

In it, filmmaker Dr. Delaney Ruston takes a look at her own family’s battles over teen tech addiction, explores how it affects adolescent brains — and suggests things parents can do. The documentary can be seen only when a person or group hosts a showing followed by a guided discussion. Fleetwood, for example, arranged one for about 100 parents and kids.

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Mark Mann

“I had to find a framework,” says Fleetwood of Columbia City, Washington. “I haven’t always been clear on what good rules to establish.”

It’s not your imagination. Teens really do spend about half of their waking days glued to their phones and tablets. Common Sense Media found that teens spend an average 6 ½ hours a day looking at digital devices and almost nine hours across all media. That’s not including screen time in school or for homework.

“Those statistics show that this is a problem that isn’t going away anytime soon,” says Kristin Wilson, national director for clinical outreach at the Newport Academy, which treats…

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