/ Modified mar 26, 2013 4:07 p.m.

Virtual Generation Grows Up

New film explores effects of childhood spent behind computer screen

(VIDEO: AZPM)

Today's children are part of the first generation to live more of their lives in the virtual world than in the natural world.

Between homework, activities at school, texting, Facebook, video games and other leisure activities, most youngsters spend about seven hours using a phone, computer or television each day.

As a social worker, Meg Merrill noticed more and more families trying to figure out the role of screen technology in family life. Her observations led her to produce the film Play Again, which is in theaters now, to explore the implications of a childhood removed from nature.

Merrill says the phenomenon is connected to increasing rates of obesity, Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, brain development issues and "a lack of time to reflect, which many people believe is going to have implications for our ability to empathize."

It is also leading children to develop a self-centered view of the world because, in the virtual world, they are able to control their reality, a feat that is not always possible in the non-virtual world.

Play Again airs at The Loft Cinema in Tucson Thursday at 5:30 p.m. It will also air on PBS World on April 22 at 5 p.m.

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