A new film opened yesterday in select theaters, and it realistically captures today's screenagers as they navigate life addicted to their smartphones and social media apps. The film, "Eighth Grade," focuses on 13-year old Kayla (played by Elsie Fisher) who is constantly using her iPhone to access Snapchat (including the AR-powered Lens feature), Instagram and other apps. And she's far from being alone. All of her friends in school also sport iPhone models and view social media apps.
The film tracks Kayla's life for a week and was a hit during Sundance 2018. The movie is a reflection of who teens are and what they are doing these days. Consider that the latest Pew survey reveals that 45% of teens use the internet "almost constantly" (compared to the 24% who said the same thing back in 2014-2015), and that nearly a quarter of teens say that social media has a mostly negative impact on their lives, and you can see that the film's script is "straight from the headlines." And yes, that includes a scene showing an active-shooter drill in the high school that Kayla attends.
If you have a screenager at home, you will definitely have a better understanding of how and why this age group is susceptible to smartphone addiction after you see the film. Many in this age bracket are so upset about their own body image that constantly looking at screens all day allows them to take their mind off how they look so they can focus on others.
To make the movie feel real (which it does), all of the Instagram accounts and social media posts in the film are real. Production assistants for the movie stood off-camera and sent texts and DMs to Kayla's iPhone at the appropriate time. The movie's creator, director and writer Bo Burnham originally had Kayla use Facebook until he was told that kids favor Snapchat these days.
"Eighth Grade" feels real because it is real. It was filmed at Suffern Middle School in Suffern, New York using actual students and teachers as extras. You can check out the trailer for the movie by clicking on the video at the top of this story.