The problem with a documentary film about screen addiction is most of us already know overuse isn’t good for us. Decreasing attention spans, digital companies gathering personal data, stunted growth and development – they’re all in Screened Out, told via talking head professionals and by director Jon Hyatt in voiceover, and we all carry on looking at our screens anyway.

It’s most effective when Hyatt brings in some emotive case studies. He and his wife ask their kids what they think of their parents’ mobile phone usage and they say they wish their parents would spend more time with them instead, particularly outdoors. A 13-year-old girl says her Instagram use led to suicide ideation, and the kicker comes when she says she still has it on her phone.

The rest is made up of undoubtedly shocking statements which have, unfortunately, lost their ability to shock, like how Facebook purposefully keeps us hooked via dopamine hits in the form of notifications, which the conversation has long moved on from. By covering a bit of everything, the film sacrifices a more rewarding deep-dive on some areas it brushes over, like its profound conclusion touching on mindfulness and scheduling screen-free time.

The film is an informative burst of anxieties about how we live, well-researched and delivered almost like a lecture, which is why those moments of human impact add some essential colour. More of this would have made the need to care more convincing; despite all these details, it never hits hard enough. It’s the rare documentary that doesn’t have to convince you of its point, so it therefore has to motivate you, which it doesn’t.

As an introduction to what developments in technology are doing to us, Screened Out is a competent and insightful place to start, but fails to move the conversation on.


Available to watch on: Apple TV, Amazon Video, Google Play, Microsoft Store, Sky Store.



SYNOPSIS: A documentary addressing tech addiction in the modern age, exploring how we can regain control of our screen time.