(Photo Credit: Screenagers Movie/My Doc Productions)
In the week of September 29th-October 6th, 10 students at Black Hills High School in Mr. Heywood’s 2nd period World History class gave up their phones for one portion of a three-part follow-up segment to the documentary ScreenAgers, which will be featured on NBC’s The Today Show.
The students involved in this project viewed the documentary ScreenAgers before giving up their phones. Brenda Breslauer, the producer, visited the class on Sept. 28 to answer questions and more thoroughly explain the project. She asked the students if viewing the documentary had influenced their thinking or confirmed any ideas they had about screens and teens. A major sensitivity many had was the stance on violent vs educational video games, with one student citing them as, ‘propaganda-esque’. Multiple students argued that violent games could also be considered educational, teaching values such as teamwork and collaboration. But another student brought up the point that video games can be so addictive and time consuming that they could negatively impact your life by taking priority over more important necessities.
This endeavour could be likened to, “almost a deprivation experiment”, as Ms. Breslauer put it. In the preceding week, students downloaded an app called Moment that tracked the amount of time they spend on their phones each day. Some students discovered they spend between 5-7 hours per day. The program was not initiated to put a bad view on teens and the amount of time they spend on their phones, but simply to gain objective exposure for the relationship teens have with screens.
(Photo Credit: Roz Thompson/Tumwater School District)
The rules of the ‘digital detox’ were very clear. Students locked their phones in a box that was kept at school for a week. They were given a flip phone that allowed them to call others, but not to text or access social media. They were not supposed to access social media through other forms of technology, such as laptops or tablets. If they did crack under the pressure, they were expected to be honest and admit that they had checked their social media. Some of the students were given a small camera to record daily diaries, thoughts, feelings, goings-on or observations throughout the project. At the end of the week, students returned the cameras and were reunited with their cell phones before debriefing about the experience, sharing what they had learned and felt.
After this program, when the participating students reflected on their time offline, most reported that it was fairly difficult at first, but became surprisingly easier as time went on. They discovered that they didn’t have to rely on their phones as much as they thought they would. Many found different activities to enjoy instead of spending so much time on social media; playing with siblings, helping around the house, hanging out with friends, etc. Almost all would recommend the week-long detox to other students so that they could experience the different view of the world as well, but the same amount said that they would not do it again.
By Olivia Steele