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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Technology that's meant to make our lives easier and keep us more connected than ever has actually become a barrier that prevents us from making much-needed real connections with other people. Instant access to information and getting lots of hits or likes make us feel intrigued and enthralled, but not really fulfilled.
Positive Role Models
College students interviewed about "digital cleanse" talk openly, honestly about their use of digital communication, what they like, don't like, how it makes them feel, what they learned about themselves and their relationships after cleanse was over. They're all Caucasian, able to attend college, so not much variety of world views represented. Director Joni Siani, college professor who created digital cleanse, appears as a communications expert and models genuine desire to help young people get to know themselves better, be able to benefit from communicating, interacting in person.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
One student tells how a sexually suggestive picture of himself, which he sent to his girlfriend, got sent to many other people, including minors, and that now he's remembered as the guy who got expelled for a sex offense. Statistics about how many teens send and receive sexually suggestive images. Opening sequence is cartoon sperm swimming toward an egg.
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"Bulls--t," "crap," "screw that," and one segment called "Generation Screwed." "F--k" and "s--t" are bleeped out a few times.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Celling Your Soul: No App for Life is a documentary about the millennial generation's love-hate relationship with technology, and the unintended consequences of neglecting personal interaction in favor of social media updates. It raises a lot of important issues that parents, educators, and teens should discuss, from how interacting has changed, why personal interaction is important, and how addicted to technology we are. It discusses the benefits of putting technology aside and what kinds of information we really need such easy access to. One student tells how he came to be expelled from high school for sending a sexually suggestive picture of himself, and brief statistics mention how many teens send and receive sexually suggestive material. Strong language is rare but includes "bulls--t" and "crap." A few times, stronger words like "f--k" and "s--t" are bleeped out. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This earnest, well-meaning documentary aims to open viewers' eyes to how much they rely on digital communication, and the skills and genuine emotions they're in danger of losing because of it. The group of older teens Celling Your Soul follows as they try the "digital cleanse" are relatable and articulate; following their stories raises a lot of issues important to teens coming of age in the smartphone era. Professor Siani, who also directed the film, is engaging as she argues the benefits of learning how to interact and communicate in person.
It does beg a few questions, though. Like whether there are other things that have us checking our phones dozens of times a day besides social media updates and text messages. Or any proposed solutions to teaching communication skills to kids who've used texting their whole lives. Or whether digital life is different for nonwhite people, or people without financial security. But it does provide a lot of important food for thought that teens, families, classmates, and friends should digest and talk about.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.