“Screenagers” explores solutions for teens’ emotional well-being

Guest Correspondence

As proponents for empowering students with social-emotional skills, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County is pleased to note much-needed attention being given to increasing awareness of and finding solutions for harmful effects of heightened stress on school-aged youth.

The encouraging movement is boosted by Florida’s new requirement, effective this school year, that all students in grades 6-12 will be provided with a minimum of five hours of mental health lessons, and by our local community’s collaborative efforts to present mental health experts’ research and guidance on this important topic.

There is no question this is a grave issue that warrants our collective concerted attention. Nationwide, millions of young people experience high stress and depression. Since 2011, there has been a 59% increase in teens reporting depressive symptoms. In a 2017 survey conducted with Florida high school students, 27.8% reported feeling sad or hopeless for two or more years in a row.

A proactive approach is integral to the EFSC’s College, Career and Life Readiness Initiative. We can and must teach our youth to build crucial skills for navigating stress and anxiety. That is why, at the EFSC, we continually illuminate the importance of social-emotional learning as a core component of life readiness.

Teaching our children to develop healthy emotional behaviors is a proactive approach and best explicitly taught throughout the education continuum alongside academic subjects.

The proactive approach makes sense: Students who learn to incorporate life skills are better able to focus on academic work and make informed plans for their future college and career plans.

Conversely, surveys show that teens say their main way of coping with stress is to turn to a screen, while scientific data indicates that two and more hours a day on social media correlate with a higher chance of having unhappy feelings.

These facts, and more, are interwoven with families’ personal stories and surprising insights from brain researchers and psychologists, into the just-released documentary film, Screenagers Next Chapter: Uncovering Skills for Stress Resilience.

The new film is the second documentary by Dr. Delaney Ruston, a physician and parent. Last year the EFSC sponsored local showings of Ruston’s first award-winning film, Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age

Through donors’ support of EFSC initiatives, we are able to provide educators, families and the community with free showings of the latest film with its emphasis on developing teens’ stress resilience and supporting their mental wellness in the digital and social media age.

Admission is free to “Screenagers Next Chapter.” Required reservations can be made online at EdFoundationSRQ.org/Screenagers. The film will be shown from 6 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 15 at North Port High School and 6 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 22 at Riverview High School.

Immediately after the film, a question-and-answer session with a panel of subject-matter experts in the fields of child psychology, education and mental health will be led by Suzanne Burke, the EFSC’s senior director of CCLR. Burke, whose doctorate is in education and curriculum, brings a depth of knowledge to the issue with 33 years’ experience in education that includes 10 years focused on social-emotional learning.

The film is recommended for middle school and older students, families, teachers, and anyone interested in promoting healthy social-emotional behaviors in students. The film trailer can be viewed at ScreenagersMovie.com. 

Jennifer Vigne is president of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.

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