- Warning: spoilers ahead “M3gan.”
- A new movie about a murderous AI doll paints a picture of a child’s reliance on technology.
- There is some truth to the fact that too much screen time can take a toll on kids, says an adolescent psychologist.
The new film “M3gan,” which has received rave reviews from critics and meme-makers alike since its release on Jan. 6, follows 8-year-old Cardi as he develops a deep attachment to an evil artificial intelligence doll. For some kids, their relationship might not be that far from reality.
The horror film is inherently ridiculous and unrealistic, but child psychologists told Insider that some of the film’s themes — like an overreliance on technology, especially during trauma — reflect how kids today miss out on development. key social cues.
In the movie, Cady (Violet McGraw) recently lost her parents in a car accident. Her aunt Gemma (Alison Williams), a workaholic and socially awkward engineer, built M3gan — a lifelike tween-sized robot — to keep Cady company (and remind her to do some things like flushing the toilet).
But the young girl became very dependent on the robot. In one scene, after Gemma takes M3gan, a snarling Cady begins violently throwing furniture and school supplies—a tantrum that culminates in the little girl hitting her aunt.
Like Cardi, children traumatized during the COVID-19 pandemic may have become dependent on technology, and this film can serve as a cautionary tale of how easy it is for children to form unhealthy attachments to their screens, Dr. Melissa Robinson-Brown, a clinical psychologist with a background in treating adolescents, told Insider.
When kids spend too much time looking at screens, they miss opportunities to develop social skills
“M3gan” delves into a hot parenting topic: screen time.
The movie begins with Cardi’s parents trying to limit the time she spends on the iPad. But when the kid asked Gemma about her screen time rules, the tech-savvy engineer saw no need to limit Cady’s online time.
Screen time itself isn’t harmful, but kids who spend too much time online may miss out on opportunities to learn social cues or develop conversational skills, Robinson-Brown said.For example, when kids text, they often Sending disjointed messages without learning how to communicate effectively with others.
“Communication skills, the ability to start a conversation and continue a conversation, all of that is what happens when you’re actually in the real world,” Robinson-Brown said. “I find it harder for kids to engage in this behavior now than at any time I’ve ever seen it.”
Robinson-Brown said the film is a cautionary tale for parents not to monitor or filter what young children see online. Helping children navigate technology is a key part of parenting, and parents need to monitor how their children use technology, psychologists say.
Trauma and reliance on technology during COVID-19 may make kids more anxious
The film’s depiction of Cardi’s traumatic loss of a parent may reflect the reality many children face during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed the lives of 1 million Americans and left the United States alone, according to federal data. 140,000 children without caregivers.
Media psychologist Joanne Broder told Insider that kids emerging from the pandemic are more socially anxious, in part because of a lack of physical interaction. Children may have lost the ability to see friends and make physical contact with loved ones at school and turn to technology to fill social voids, Broad said.
While kids may have had positive experiences with technology—like being inspired by crafts on Etsy or inspirational Instagram posts—many lost out on nearly two years of opportunities to practice emotional intelligence and social graces, Broder Say. Researchers are still studying the impact of the pandemic on children’s social development, Broder and Robinson-Brown said.
While the pandemic has yet to prompt real-life children to befriend murderous AI dolls, Broder says social developments missed over the years could affect today’s kids entering adulthood.
“I’m not against technology,” Broad said, “but people need people. They need human interaction.”