We need to talk about the thing you’re staring at right now.
We stare at screens all day and all night. Is this good for us? We’re going to talk about that. Read more Screen Week content here.
A few mornings back, just moments after waking up, I rolled over and picked up my phone. It’s not a good habit. I know this. Everyone knows this. Yet, I couldn’t help myself. So I checked the weather forecast. I scrolled through some unnecessary emails. I worked my way through The Bulletin. Then I opened several news sites to see if there had been any urgent Covid-19 developments.
There had. I felt sick.
Then I opened Twitter and time folded in on itself. Anger about climate change. Outrage over Duncan Garner. A complaint about popcorn (who hates popcorn?). Norway trending over a bow and arrow attack that caused multiple deaths. South Korea trending for a real-life Squid Game competition. I saw footage of an incredible goal mouth screw-up in a football game from the 90s. I saw a Spongebob Squarepants meme I didn’t understand.
That’s a lot of information to take in at that time of day. I’d barely opened my eyes.
From there, I spent the day alternating between screens. A laptop for work. An iPad when my daughter needed my laptop for her school Zooms. A phone for everything else. In the evenings, the television was turned on for some blessed relief from … all those other screens. I haven’t checked my screen time results in ages, because, well, the result would just be too depressing.
Does my routine sound familiar? Yeah, it probably does. In just a few short years, screens have come to dominate every facet of our lives. We rely on screens to start the day, to inform us, to connect us and entertain us. They sort out our bills, organise our calendar, tell us to call our mums, and remind us to take silly little walks. Then they provide the soundtrack for those walks.
Often, they’re the last things we look at before we fall asleep. A screen, it seems, is always there. Sometimes, it’s also the thing that helps us fall in love.
During lockdown, that reliance is increased 10-fold. My children, aged seven and 11, are beginning to navigate a world built out of screens, spending hours in lockdown talking to their friends and completing school work, all online. They’re learning how to conduct themselves digitally, and are asking about social media. My son checks his likes for his Lego creations on an anonymous app built by the toy company. It’s training wheels for Instagram. It’s just a matter of time.
I’m worried. No, I’m petrified. I feel lost and a little helpless. I want to set up parental locks. I need to talk to them about what they’re doing now – and what’s coming next. I have to warn them there are bad people out there in the digital space. Sometimes, I want to throw every single device in the bin.
But these are big conversations, and they need to be done right.
So, all this week, we’re going to talk about it. We’re going to take a look at the good stuff, like the moment everyone’s favourite streaming service rolled into town. We’ll look at bad stuff too, like when your favourite TV shows got cancelled.
We’ll revisit some famous local screen faces from the past, and ask what you should be doing with the screens you need to fix, the screens you no longer need, and what all those screens are doing to your eyes. We’ll also look at representation: are we seeing enough diversity on our screens?
And yes, we’ll tackle those tricky conversations everyone needs to have with their kids. I’m terrified, but it’s now or never.
After all, you’re holding a screen in your hands as you read this. It’s literally staring you straight in the face. Shouldn’t you sorta know a thing or two about it?