Do you think you could go a whole day without looking at your phone?
What would it be like for everyone in an entire secondary school to go without phones and computers for a whole day? To go back to what it used to be like when people had to talk to each other.
In the Lanna School pioneering spirit, that’s exactly what we did a few weeks ago, we called it Digital Detox Day. The aim, quite simply, was to experience life without it revolving around a small screen. It certainly wasn’t a judgement call against technology, but rather a way to raise awareness of our increasingly intertwined relationship with it. We also used the opportunity as a fund raising sponsorship activity for the local village school. We have actually just bought them a desktop computer with the that we money raised.
So, what was it like?
There were certainly many more conversations happening all over the school in and outside of classes. Students, teachers…everyone was talking, all the usual routines and distractions of checking messages were gone, it felt liberating and at the same time disorientating. There were board games being played in the school library at break times and a big game of football in the recreation area during lunch break.
For me, the most memorable part of the day, apart from the joy of not having to plough through a busy email inbox, was seeing staff and students sitting in shady spots all over the campus talking to each other. It’s easy to forget how important talking actually is.
It was though a challenge, and I think for many people a mixed learning experience. For example, I talked to one Year 13 student the day afterwards and asked her what she got from the digital detox.
“It was horrible, I didn’t know where anyone was. If I wanted to find one of my friends I had to ask people and look around the campus, I couldn’t just text them or message them and find out where they were and what they were doing. It’s really inconvenient. Everyone must have been really fit before phones, and also not know where anyone was!”
Another student in the same year group said;
“We live in an age where we are all so heavily dependant upon technology, if we didn’t have it life would be so much harder. It’s much easier to be lazy these days with so much technology around. Everything is at a touch of a button, it must have taken so long to find out simple things before smart phones.”
It certainly makes you think doesn’t it. I know some of us, staff and students, found it really hard to go a whole day without looking at our phone. As soon as the end of school day bell was rung I saw a student run frantically across the recreation area to her locker to retrieve her phone and greedily scroll though the numerous unseen messages. Another student who assumed that we were doing it for a whole week happily brought in a book rather than a phone the following day and was rather disappointed that we only did it for a day.
Whatever the reaction it felt like an important thing to do, and I’m really glad we did it. In a world were teenagers are increasingly addicted to computer games, where the average screen time for adults in America is around 10 hours a day it feels an important thing to do, to unplug, switch off and talk to someone, even if it is just for one day.