By Mick Krever, CNN
What are your children doing on the internet?
For many modern parents, it’s one of the scariest – and most mysterious – questions they can be asked.
It’s something British filmmaker Beeban Kidron – director of the second “Bridget Jones” film – realized she too was anxious to answer.
(On the release of a new Bridget Jones book, Kidron called Helen Fielding “a genius” for killing off the character of Darcy, but when asked if she would direct a film without Darcy, she deflected “Of course not!”)
Her newest project is called “InRealLife,” a documentary about children’s addiction to the internet.
The question she wanted to answer was not the fraught one of whether online activity was good or bad – a complicated question that is moot anyway – but how the internet was changing young people.
“I felt that the world around me was just sort of closing in, and I suddenly realized it’d been over a year since I’d seen a young person without some sort of device in their hands,” Kidron told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview that aired Monday.
In her kitchen, she said, were six teenagers – one on a computer, one on a game consul, four on a couch staring into handheld screens.
“I looked at the picture and I said, ‘Well I understand generationally why they may not be talking to me, but why aren’t they talking to each other?’”
In one clip, a teenage boy and his friend are raptured by pornography displayed on an iPad.
“That’s what you want; that’s what you look for,” he says. You get “a perfect image of what you’ve watched on the internet.”
“If you think about the purpose of pornography, it’s very adult, male-centered,” Kidron said. “It’s very, very bad about things like consent, and about gender images and so on.”
“And if that is your entry level to what you think sex is and what is normal, think about what that means when you try to practice it in your real life.”
The boy she spoke with about pornography, despite obsessing over what “perfect” breasts should look like, was ultimately very introspective.
“He’s actually a very wonderful young man,” Kidron told Amanpour. “He said, ‘It’s ruined love. It ruins love for us all.’”
For girls, too, the director told Amanpour, pornography is extremely detrimental.
“The young women I came across are comparing themselves to pornofied images of women,” she said. “And I think that a lot of the – the sense of being rewarded on the internet for looking sexy, getting a lot more likes, being popular, is incrementally pushing young women into a sexualized version of themselves.”
That’s not to say, however, that parents are totally blameless.
“I could make a whole other film about the things that young people have said about their parents,” Kidron said. “And that’s what I’ve ended up feeling, is like we are the inattentive generation bringing up the restless generation.”
Any “solution” to the problem, she told Amanpour, has to include the companies – the Facebooks, the Twitters – that facilitate kids’ online behavior.
None of those companies would participate with Kidron on her documentary, demurring, more or less, that they are just utilities, not themselves delivering content.
“I think that’s absolutely unsustainable,” she said of their view. “They are using reward technology. The dopamine is released in your body – you must get another hit in your body, another like.”
In other words, Kidron told Amanpour, “There is a Svengali in the room.”