Teen Focus in a Many Media World

Lynn JataniaMy middle daughter, age 13, read the novel The Outsiders last year. She loved it, and like any good mom who was raised in the 1980s, I bought her a DVD copy of the classic movie. She loved the film version, too.

Last month, her Grade 8 teacher started reading the book out loud to her class. As they neared the end of the novel, my daughter invited a few of her close friends over for an Outsiders Movie Viewing Party.

I was surprised at how little they actually watched the movie.

I suppose watching a movie at home isn’t quite the same as watching one in a theatre, where the lights are down low, cellphones are frowned upon, and you paid good money for the experience. And this was a social occasion as much as a movie-watching occasion.

But one teen spent most of the movie on her cellphone, instant messaging over social media with others who weren’t in the room.

One teen spent the entire movie playing video games on a handheld device he had brought.

One teen spent most of his time talking, and when he got tired of being shushed by my daughter, he wandered off and found something more interesting to watch – my son in a different room on YouTube.

We decided a while ago to implement the “one media at a time” rule – if you are watching a movie, then you are doing ONLY that, no phone on the side, no video games to fill in the boring parts. We are hoping to teach our kids how to focus, how to hold their attention on something, and how to invest in a satisfying payoff, rather than looking for the instant gratification of a three-minute YouTube clip.

It’s been a struggle, and we have lost our fair share of kids on Family Movie Night as they grow tired of the chosen title and leave the room so they can break out the handheld devices instead.

But I was happy to see that my daughter did watch the movie with her full attention, and even admonished her friends with their devices and their ennui to pay attention. She was disappointed at the end of the event in how many of her friends didn’t put the effort in to focus on what she wanted to share with them.

And I was like, “I KNOW, RIGHT?” Ding ding ding!

It was a great teaching moment, and we talked about how important it is to give things your full attention if you are going to really appreciate and enjoy them. I think she better understands why we’ve been so firm on the One Media rule.

I’m sure we’ll still lose her on some movie nights to something with a faster payoff. But at least maybe she will think twice about it in the future, and will give longer films a bit more of a chance.

Is there a One Media rule in your home? How is it working out?