Our Digital Detox initiative has had a mixed reception. Not surprisingly, teachers report that they are pleased to see pupils interacting with each other instead of being glued to a small screen at break times and lunch times. The pupils, however, have made their feelings known in the Student Council: they do not like giving up their smartphones for the duration of the school day, nor do they see any benefit.
Despite the pupils’ misgivings, we are continuing with this initiative and pupils will be asked to hand in their smartphones one day a week. It is not because we believe that pupils should be made to give up out of some puritanical notion that depriving oneself of things you like is good for you (although this could be argued), but it is precisely because of the reasons pupils gave for not liking the initiative that we decided to stick with it. Their main concerns were that they had nothing to do in their spare time.
We used to have a lot of spare time. As a teenager in my spare time at school I would play games outside, invent little plays, make up songs about the teachers, read in the library when it was raining, send messages (written, of course) to other pupils but mostly I would talk to my friends. The idea that we had nothing to do never crossed our minds. It worries me that we have lost moments of unburdened contemplation because we are always occupied.
So Digital Detox is here to stay. We will not be teaching pupils how to use their spare time; hopefully, this will come from them.