Are You Screenwrecked?

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (2010), kids between age 8 and 18 spend a whopping 7.5 hours a day in front of a screen - computer, television or other electronic device. That time estimate does not include the additional 1.5 hours kids spend texting or the half hour that they talk on their cell phones. That's the majority of a kid’s waking life; “in fact that's more time than they spend sleeping” (Glow Kids by Nicholas Kardaras, Ph.D.).

Research for the play "Screenwrecked" was at times shocking. The average age a child is handed a screen for the first time is four months of age. WHAT? Before our children are normally allowed to have their first tip of the tongue, deliciously shocking bite of sugar, which usually takes place around a first birthday, children are handed little glowing electronic "candy" tablets. I am a mother of four, and I struggle with screen use with each of my children on a very regular basis. I am more than partly to blame for this. In times of being an overwhelmed tired mama, I would hand out screens as a distraction, or a tool for calming a tantrum, and sometimes even as a bribery technique. For all of this, I am truly sorry, deep apologies to all of my children, because most of the time handing one of my kids a screen just felt like the easy way out. A quick fix to what is now a lasting problem... Now my kids are like little addicts frequently searching out their next screen fix. And don't even get me started on my own (personal) excessive screen use. I have certainly not been the ideal model of limited screen behavior. There have been many times, as a mom, that I have searched  for my screen during important parenting moments. I guess as a distraction from parenting. I often find myself phone in hand scrolling through a depressing news feed, filling my Amazon cart, or checking the weather for the next two months. None of it necessary. Instead I could have been making eye contact with my child. I could have been actively listening to what they were saying. 

"Mom, can I use your phone?" is a question I hear most afternoons at my house. And often my answer is "No, I'm using it." But what if I wasn't? 

For the two weeks of camp, the campers and also their families (including my family) are being asked to go on a screen diet. Campers will be handed journals on the first day of camp so that as an ensemble we can keep track of our own thoughts/feelings about life without screens. As we dig into the rehearsal process of "Screenwrecked: Trapped in an Electronic Mobile Device", I want to let each of the actors/campers use the creative experience of life without screens to inform their characters and thoughts on the play and also their performances at the end of the two weeks.

I really wanted to write the play from the perspective of how kids feel about screens and not how adults feel their kids should feel about screens. Wendy and I were really lucky to get to join a sixth grade acting class at Waynflete School last spring. We did some theater games with the class but also had a very honest conversation sitting in a small circle before the bell rang ending our time together. There was a common theme for the acting students and their screens: they wanted to be relevant. Relevant. The definition of relevant is "closely connected or appropriate to what is being done or considered." This made me wonder, how much of our society is seeking to be relevant with their screen use? How much of our world is searching for connection through technology? And sadly how much of our children's childhood experience is being lost in screens? How many of us are also screenwrecked?

- Jennifer Slack-Eaton, Director of Screenwrecked

Screenwrecked is a two week production camp that will culminate in a weekend of performances, August 9 - 11. Friday and Saturday at 7:30, Sunday at 2:00. $10.00 admission.

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