Children in Nature Austin held a viewing yesterday of a new documentary called Play Again.  It was an incredible film showing the statistics and effects of screen time on the modern day childhood. Some of the stats were scary such as the fact that the average child in the US watches 7.5 hours of screens per day.  To me that seems virtually impossible but all the kids interviewed concurred with some as high as 12-15 hours per day on weekends. This number includes computer time/video games/phones, etc. Any screen at all.

In the film they featured 6 average teens who talked about their screen usage, virtual relationships, game time, etc. They all presented themselves very honestly and, to the filmmakers credit, without any judgment at all about their behavior. They then took these 6 kids out on a nature excursion in the amazingly beautiful woods of the Pacific Northwest (this Texas resident was drooling over the lushness of it all). The belief systems of the kids was revealed in a really poignant way – again without judgment at all.

One of the points made in the film was how we as adults have to model the behavior we want to see in our kids. This is something we have talked about often as part of Slow Family’s mission – model what we want to see. If we are texting, ignoring our face to face relationships so we can check our virtual ones, losing connection with those who are closest to us, that’s what our kids will see and copy. This film definitely has caused me to look again at my own relationship with the virtual world. Don’t get me wrong, I love my virtual time. I love the communities formed around it. I love the sharing of information, photos, ideas via the virtual world. But I have to remember that the real connection has to come first. And foremost. And if I want connection with my kids down the road, that connection needs to be established first.

The film showed too that the connection to nature needs also to be established now if we are hoping to have stewards for our planet down the road.  One of the experts interviewed stated that there “must be a valuing of the earth. If there is no valuing, there is no protection. And if there is no protection, there is no hope.”  I don’t by any means want to sound alarmist but I do agree, that if our kids don’t feel a connection to nature, there will be no desire for them to help protect the planet we live on. And as one of the kids said during their campout, “I like earth. It’s my hometown.”  And I won’t even go into the cravings to consume that are created when screen time is increased.

This film is just now making the festival circuit but is available on their website Play Again Film . I highly recommend every parent watch this film. And I recommend also that every teen and pre-teen watch it with them. (just be forewarned there are some graphic video game images so you can determine for yourself if your child is old enough to see it.) It’s a really insightful and informative film and I think it allows the viewer to form their own judgment – not about others but about themselves and their own behavior.

We don’t have to panic. But I do think we need to ponder, Is what we’re doing working for us? As a family and as a society and as a planet too. As one of the kids said, it’s up to each parent to look at their child’s screen behavior and determine if it’s too much. Is it getting in the way of real relationships with other people? With their own family? With their own self?

As one kid said when they were out in the woods, “This is cool. It’s like more realistic than video games.”

If you see it, I’d love to know what you think. And if you’re in Austin and want to find ways you can get in nature near you, check out Nature Rocks website which has parks and nature events listed by area.