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Film reviews: Screened Out

Not app-y news: The programme warns over kids’ screen time


Screened Out

★★★★✩ (PG)

IT’S not just our appetite for booze and food that’s shot up under lockdown — it’s our screen time too. Who needs meditation when we can sedate anxiety by endless scrolling? And online shopping. I swear I could build a second home from my three months’ worth of Amazon boxes.

Perfect timing then, for a scare doc about how screen time, particularly on social media, isn’t merely a friendly way of keeping us all connected in a time of crisis (though if I’m WhatsApp-ed one more ‘funny’ video I will scream). It’s also dangerously addictive.

As former Facebook bigwig Chamath Palihapitiya baldly declares in an archive interview here: ‘We created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.’ Yikes. Screened Out sees US film-maker/father-of-three Jon Hyatt investigate what impact screen time was having on his young sons. And, let’s just say, props to Hyatt for niftily justifying his kids’ excessive screen use in the name of ‘research’. Would we were all so lucky.

By interviewing a cross-section of experts, Hyatt systematically confronts us with a lot of hard-hitting stats we’d rather swipe left on. Since the advent of smartphones, our attention span has dropped below that of goldfish (fish: nine seconds; humans: eight seconds). More chillingly, teen suicide rates have roughly doubled.

It’s no wonder that Silicon Valley parents overwhelmingly send their own kids to places such as Waldorf schools, where absolutely no screens are permitted (they still use blackboards and chalk). Famously, Apple guru Steve Jobs didn’t let his own children use the iPads he invented.

But policing kids isn’t enough. Hyatt’s hardest message is that adults need to look in the mirror and unplug. ‘Two hours a day or less — that’s good advice for everybody,’ says one expert. Will it make a difference?

‘This is a time when we’re all celebrating bad behaviours,’ Hyatt warned in a recent CNN interview. But it’s also a great time to start new ones. Go to settings and switch on that ‘Screen Time’ tracker. It’s a start.

Available to download on various platforms