SALT LAKE CITY — Whether their parents like it or not, technology is a part of most children’s lives these days. Smartphones, classroom iPads or even artificial intelligence-powered speakers are not inherently good or bad, but for children, they do require a parent’s guiding hand.
This week, "Connect," a new film that addresses the difficulties of raising children in a technology saturated world, screens at movie theaters nationwide for a limited two-night run on Tuesday, Feb. 27, and Thursday, March 1.
Hosted by actor and dad Kirk Cameron (“Growing Pains”), "Connect" features real stories from real parents, as well as experts in the fields who study the effects of media overuse.
Circle Media, who created the Circle with Disney device that helps parents enforce their internet rules and restrictions, is one of "Connect's" sponsors. CEO and co-founder Lance Charlish not only wants to help parents deal with the influx of web content but also hopes to help families make constructive use of technology.
“I completely believe that there's a role for all sorts of different kinds of technology in families’ lives and it's about how it's used, not whether or not it's used, from my perspective,” Charlish said in an interview with Deseret News.
According to a survey conducted by Common Sense Media, from 2011 to 2017 the number of smartphones in the homes of children 8 and younger more than doubled. Tablets, in that same period, have gone up from 8 percent to 78 percent.
But that isn't necessarily a bad thing — technology has undoubtedly helped children. As Common Sense Media reported, students use technology to learn and connect with other students around the world, stating that 67 percent of parents whose children use screen media said it helped their children to learn.
Charlish, with his own family of four, agrees that technology can be beneficial — but only when it is appropriate to the child’s mental maturity. And, he clarifies, this will vary across families.
“My big thing is making sure that those experiences with devices with media are appropriate for the developmental milestones of each child,” Charlish said. “What we're striving to do every single day is to bring tools that make it so that families can really curate and create an experience for their families and their kids that's in line with their values."
Circle Media’s product Circle with Disney allows parents to monitor their children’s online activity through the use of custom filters, content managers and even time limits. Charlish said the product came from his and his co-founder’s beliefs that parents should manage their children's online media.
As an analogy, Charlish said, you don’t just give a set of keys to a kid.
“There are certain things that you want to be able to make sure they understand and they learn and that they're developmentally prepared for by the time they actually start driving themselves," he said. "And then as they drive, you to let them take longer and longer — you give them more freedom and more responsibility — and I don't know why the use of technology wouldn't be treated in a similar way.”1 comment on this story
As a sponsor of "Connect," Charlish admired the filmmakers for drawing attention to technology's impact on children, especially when it is so prevalent in young people's lives.
"(The) passion we have for trying to make the world a little bit better … and helping kids survive in a world with devices, we share that in common (with the filmmakers)," Charlish said.
"Connect" will screen Tuesday, Feb. 27, and Thursday, March 1, at Cinemark Theatres throughout Salt Lake and Utah counties. For more information, go to cinemark.com_._