It's not uncommon to see a child's eyes glued to an iPad or cellphone. Montessori teacher Krista Riihimaki noticed her students - at increasingly younger ages - spending large amounts of time tied to digital devices.
She couldn't help but wonder whether overusing technology impacts children's cognitive and physical development. With that question in mind, she decided to make a film on the topic. Riihimaki will come to Menlo-Atherton High School on Thursday, Feb. 7, to screen her documentary, "Child, Disrupted," and hold a panel discussion on screen addiction.
In "Child, Disrupted," Riihimaki interviews experts in neuroscience, psychology, occupational therapy, sociology and addiction to find out if her worries about screen time and child development are valid. The film explains how technology impacts a child's behavior and offers potential solutions for parents.
"We have to really be detectives for our children," she said. "People always ask, 'How many hours is it OK for kids this age to use tech?'"
Parents have to observe their children because technology can affect people in different ways, Riihimaki said. One child might be OK with 30 minutes a day of screen time, while another child might not be able to handle 15 minutes, she said. Some children may have trouble sleeping after watching TV or spending time on their phones before bed. Screens can affect mood or overstimulate some children, she said.
Along with Riihimaki, participants in the panel following the screening are:
• David Klein, head baseball coach at M-A and founder of America Offline, a wellness company launching in February that is aimed at getting athletes to develop healthier relationships with electronics.
• Lesley Martin, managing director of SafeSpace, a Menlo Park youth mental health program.
• Bryan Bowen, addiction counselor and chief operating officer at Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services, a residential treatment program designed specifically for boys ages 12 to 17 who are suffering from substance abuse and other issues.
• Stephanie Brown, psychologist and founder of the Addictions Institute, an outpatient clinic offering treatment for addiction problems.
The film won an outstanding achievement award at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival and best documentary short at the California Independent Film Festival 2018.
The free event will be held from 7 to 8:15 p.m. at the M-A Performing Arts Center at 555 Middlefield Road in Atherton. RSVP here.