Ki Sung/MindShift
Ki Sung/MindShift

Being without a phone can be an incapacitating feeling, possibly worse than leaving a wallet at home. Many adults can remember an analog era of living without a mobile phone. But for young digital natives, taking a break from the phone, where they live and socialize, can induce all kinds of emotions.

Recently, a line of teenage boys were frantically sending last-minute texts and posting to Facebook one final time before grabbing a manilla envelope and sealing their devices inside. These boys volunteered to abstain from using not just their phones but all digital devices for three days to better understand the role of technology in their lives.

The Tech Timeout Academic Challenge was taken by boys and girls in grades 4 through 12 at Convent & Stuart Hall in San Francisco — along with some teachers and parents — as part of this private school’s attempt to implement its one-to-one iPad program. The idea is to recognize that technology is often a distraction from other important things, like connecting with classmates and family, enjoying the moment or being creative.

“This is going to be really hard for me. I think I’m going to have some pretty intense feelings of anxiety after about an hour,” said sophomore Eli Horowitz as he sealed up his phone. Other students were also apprehensive about the timeout, citing their desire to be connected to friends through social media as one of the main temptations, but some were glad for the excuse to try putting the phone away for a while.

“We’ve really accelerated how we’ve developed technology here [at Stuart Hall] and I think it’s good for people to take a step back and just try to look at learning and friendships and socializing culture through a different lens,” said senior Thomas Namara. In his four years at the school, technology use has increased dramatically. He’s glad the freshmen will get a small taste of what school was like before.

Students react to the technology-free life.

The school’s leaders expected that some students wouldn’t make it through all three days, but they felt it was important to raise students’ awareness of how they use their devices. “I have a long history of working to promote technology,” said Howard Levin, the school’s director of educational innovation and information services. ”It’s really interesting that now the issues that are the most important to me are working to promote conscious, mindful use and learning to disconnect.”

Levin has no doubt that the school’s iPad program is helping students be more effective producers, creators and synthesizers of information, but he’s also aware that technology has insinuated itself deeply into his students’ lives and they may not even be aware of what life could be like without it. While this tech timeout is short, just three days, he says that’s enough to get kids reflecting on how they use technology. Maybe they’ll even begin strategizing ways to regularly disconnect.

“A lot of what we are targeting with our tech timeout is the interruptions of social media and the pingings and the notifications that interrupt attention,” Levin said. Convent & Stuart Hall allow students to use their phones and iPads anytime during school (nothing is blocked), and teachers are trying to help students build the life skill of recognizing when it’s time to pay attention and when it’s all right to zone out.


“It made me way more creative with my time and it gave me a sense of relief,” Horowitz said. “Whereas if I had technology, I would feel like I have to check Instagram.” It was hard to get used to not having his phone, he said. The first day he was anxious, reflexively reaching into his pocket, but by the third day he felt something akin to freedom. He went surfing, bounced on the trampoline and went on walks.

“I feel very addicted to social media and stuff, or dependent is a better way to describe it,” Horowitz said. “It’s like habitual dependency, and I feel like I could do without that. It was really relieving for me to not have my technology and my phone on me.” He’s glad he made it through all three days, but isn’t sure he could force himself to take more timeouts in the future.

Other students weren’t so strong. It wasn’t as hard to abstain from technology at school, said Ryley Aceret, because he was around his friends, who were also taking the challenge. But on Friday night, when he found himself alone, the temptation was too great.

“On the bus home it was getting late,” said Aceret. “And just that temptation on the bus, [there was] no one to talk to, and so I had to pull out my phone, turn it on for the first time, rip open the seal,” he said.

“I felt normal again,” Aceret said of regaining his phone. “When I wasn’t with my phone I felt different, like I was naked all the time.” His phone makes him feel secure. He was also imagining that his friends had already caved and were back on social media without him — he had the fear of missing out.

That doesn’t mean he didn’t learn some valuable lessons from the time spent tech-free. “I usually take a really long time doing homework and that’s because I get sidetracked with technology and my phone,” Aceret said.

Recently he’s taken to shutting his phone off and secluding himself away from TVs or other distractions so he can concentrate on homework. With his technology distracting him, Aceret said homework can take up to five hours, but without it he can whip out his assignments in an hour and a half.


Technology has the odd distinction of both connecting people in unprecedented ways at the same time that it isolates them. Several students noticed that when they didn’t have their phones or iPads, they were more ready to connect with friends and family, and more aware when those people were themselves wrapped up in devices.

“It was very ironic to see the generation that often criticizes our use of technology addicted to it when I wasn’t using it,” Catherine Heinen said.

“It kind of changed the whole way we interact with each other,” Namara said. Because students always have their iPads or phones with them, they often play games at lunch or check fantasy sports stats. When no one had devices, Namara talked to his friends more and interacted with people he usually doesn’t.

“I noticed interacting with people was a lot different,” Namara said. “People take out their phones as a way to mask the awkwardness of the conversation. But I noticed people looked up more.”

Without technology, Namara was also more dependent on his parents. His AP government teacher assigned homework to look up an interest group and be ready to explain what it was and how it got its money. Normally, Namara would just look up that information, take some notes and be done. But without technology he had to ask his mom to look it up for him.

“Half an hour down the line, my mother and I just had a conversation about politics,” Namara said. “And it went from special interest groups to the environment, and the economy, and what’s happening in the Middle East, and then my dad joined in. An hour in, we had a really good conversation about politics.”

That never would have happened normally, Namara said.

All the students recognized that class was different without technology, too. “It almost seemed like the whole school was on hold,” he said. “Every class we went to, it seemed like there was one point when we couldn’t move on.” Instead, teachers led discussions about current events, played games requiring students to make persuasive arguments or practiced meditation.

“It was almost a wakeup call for how dependent we are on technology,” Namara said.

Teachers and students at Convent & Stuart Hall have become so used to using technology for everything that even when teachers knew there would be two days of class without it, the lessons stalled. Students reported enjoying the reprieve from digital notetaking, Apple TVs and online homework, but they recognized they may have been responding to the lighter load in general.

What Happens When Teens Try to Disconnect From Tech For Three Days 12 March,2015Katrina Schwartz

  • annum004

    Natural awareness reaches out much farther than a phone, yet social networking brings in resourses otherwise unavailable.
    As a coach, I tell my kids to shut the phone off and give me 2 hours.
    -Unless they play good music 😉

  • Mr. Blackheart

    That boy couldn’t take a bus from school to home without breaking down on a short group project.

    I hope he’s an outlier.

    • clara

      No, he’s unable to be alone with his thoughts, and that’s NOT an outlier trait, unfortunately.

  • lulubella

    Wait, how does a class stall without technology?! These teachers could not prepare a lecture or interactive conversation and have students take notes and/or participate in the discussion? Color me confused, dismayed, and fearful of who and what we are producing out of school today.

    • songnverse

      I guess you would have to be a teacher to understand. If we prepare lessons on the device, or like myself, I am teaching a technology class and the Internet is down, it is a struggle. I have to change my plans in a moment’s notice. It’s just like any other classroom disturbance. If the copy machine was on the blink, then you wouldn’t have any documents to distribute. It doesn’t stall forever, but you have to quickly change direction. In a 1-to-1 iPad school, textbooks are ebooks, paper is a digital notepad, etc. I’m not saying it’s good or bad; it is what it is. Whether we like it or not, this is the future. Don’t blame teachers or schools. Blame Zuckerberg. 😉

      • Confused

        I’m don’t blame the teachers, or you, but the education system is a different thing. However, you say to blame Zuckerberg. While I agree that it is disheartening that for today’s youth, social interaction seems to have its base in social network technology, and I have my own personal gripes about fb, how is Zuckerberg responsible for the fact that a teacher could not teach class for two days without this technology? Were they teaching class using fb? I applaud the premiss of this experiment, but it sounds like it was a planned exercise, so how is it possible that lessons were stalled for two days? Could they not have preplanned lessons using good old-fashioned pen, paper, chalkboards and class discussion and make it a part of the exercise p nothing else, to show how class was taught before the use of technology? Teachers have taught this way, in classrooms, for over two hundred years and for century before that, they employed the oral traditions. That you are teaching a technology class and experience an unexpected loss of the internet connection is a different situation. Don’t get me wrong – I believe technology can be a wonderful and useful thing. I relish having information at my fingertips, because I grew up and was educated in the days when it took hours in a library to collect a modicum of the information one can get on the internet in minutes, but I don’t understand this, and I find it a frightening thought.

        • Not a Bit Confused

          Dear Confused, Have you ever taught? I have. It doesn’t matter what materials you’re used to having. When they’re taken away, that’s hard to plan for. Try doing something before you assume people who have a bumpy time of it are somehow not fully competent. Pay attention to the resources you use most frequently in your job, then plan to do without them for 3 days, and see if those 3 days are easy simply because you knew they were coming. Or think of it this way: if you’re not tech-dependent, you’d have a really, really hard time planning an effective tech-dependent lesson, or even to switch your normal job from its non-tech form to a purely tech form for 3 days. It’s tough to work with materials that you’re not practiced with. It’s like asking a sculptor to paint and then being surprised when she doesn’t produce a masterpiece even though she knew she was going to be painting something. That’s the nature of being human, and if it frightens you, you’re afraid either of human shortcomings or of change. For the record, I went through all of K-12 without internet, and we still hand wrote notes and entire papers and did basic math without calculators. I was well-versed in the Dewey Decimal system and its relationship to a card catalog, and viewed historical documents on microfiche. My difference of opinion has nothing to do with a difference in how we grew up.

          • Confused

            Did not mean to suggest incompetence. What I meant was that if we allow ourselves to become so reliant on this technology that we cannot function for two days without it, then maybe it’s not the best thing, for the students, or anyone for that matter, to use it exclusively. I am not afraid of change. What I find frightening is that maybe they’re becoming too dependent on the technology. I can only infer that your defensiveness and suggestion that I am afraid of change stems from your fear that it would be too difficult to teach for the two days if you couldn’t use the technology, which only supports my point. In answer to your question, no, I do not teach, though I do not have to be a teacher to recognize this – just as you do not have to be an artist to understand the scenario you used, as an example. I do, however, work in an academic department at a university and converse with faculty, young and not so young, on a daily basis, and the benefits as well as the pitfalls of technology are a topic of conversation. While computer technology is a tool, it is only one of several tools used, and the majority of our faculty do still teach using mostly traditional methods. Will these kids be prepared for college, where they may have to be able to learn in an environment that is not completely dependent on this technology? For the record, in my job, I have to deal with ever-changing processes that center around “technological advances”. Some are good, but they are not always the better way of doing things.

          • celestialisms

            “What I meant was that if we allow ourselves to become so reliant on this
            technology that we cannot function for two days without it, then maybe
            it’s not the best thing, for the students, or anyone for that matter, to
            use it exclusively.”

            This is the same argument that gets trotted out every. single. time. a new technology gets invented. When paper was invented, the people who were carving on rocks freaked out about it because it wasn’t as permanent. When writing was invented, people freaked out about it because they were worried people’s brains wouldn’t be as good at thinking because they wouldn’t have to memorize everything. We are clearly reliant on these two things now, far more than we’re reliant on iPads. Do you think we should stop using them because it’s bad to be reliant on anything?

            “Will these kids be prepared for college, where they may have to be able
            to learn in an environment that is not completely dependent on this

            Yes. It will take them a grand total of a couple weeks to adjust, if that. (Especially since it’s the teachers here who had trouble switching their lesson plans over to non-tech versions, not the kids.) Ebooks aren’t that different from textbooks; taking notes on an iPad isn’t that different from taking notes on a sheet of paper. And I say that as someone who prefers taking notes on paper.

          • April Gunn

            I don’t know what colleges Confused has been attending, but I think it’s more likely a student NOT used to using technology would have trouble adjusting. A laptop and cell phone are practically necessities now in college, especially in certain majors, like communications or business.

          • Andy

            Went through engineering school in the early 2000’s without a cell phone–except for the clamshell model my wife and I purchased for notification of an impending birth…laptops for only the last three semesters.

          • April Gunn

            I went to college less than a decade later than you, as a communications major (journalism and graphic design), and I can honestly say that I would have failed out by my sophomore year without a cell phone and laptop, as many of my assignments for 200, 300, and 400-level courses required field work and work on the computer, with limited space and limited hours available in library and lab computers on campus.

            Just five years later, working as an IT technician while I was going to grad school, computers were actually a required item for incoming freshmen, and purchased through the school at a large discount because of this.

            The point being that things are changing faster and faster, and as the technology changes so too do the requirements for students who must be prepared to navigate the technological world. Chances are, your college experience in the early 2000’s barely resembles that of an engineering student in 2015, even at the same institution you attended. I’d be willing to bet even a student attending in 2010 wouldn’t have much in common with the students entering college now.

          • arahman21

            I would have to disagree on the ipad and paper comparison. Taking notes on an ipad is worse than paper, as it’s not designed for handwriting and the software keyboard is SLOW. A Surface of similar tablet designed for styluses or keyboards would be a better equivalent (and maybe even better, as it can be saved onto Dropbox/Skydrive automatically, allowing you to access it from anywhere and any device).

          • ME_JB

            There’s definitely a balance to be struck. I remember my math teachers insisting that we not just learn, but be proficient at long division without a calculator. That was just in the 80’s. Today it is more important that we be proficient with a calculator (or better yet, a spreadsheet) than with hand calculations. Students are facing a similar scenario now. Is it more important that they be able to write a formal letter, or be able to quickly and efficiently text someone? Is it more important that they learn note-taking shortcuts, or learn to use the voice recorder or speech-to-text on their phones to record something? I agree that new technology does not always provide the best way of doing things, but those who learn to use it efficiently will be the ones who will succeed.

        • jn

          If it is a frightening thought to you, then put yourself in an average classroom in an average school district in the average town. Kids don’t know how to take notes, listen, follow directions, express themselves clearly, and communicate effectively. I am a teacher and prepare lessons both ways, and given that reading and writing skills have quickly eroded with the advent of technology, you cannot even ask students an engaging question because they will not or cannot respond; their cognitive map, if you will, has shrunk considerably because they don’t read closely anymore, they read distractedly,thanks to the teachers. So while Fb may have been the whipping boy, the problem is clearly the reliance on technology and not the preparation, or lack thereof, by the teachers.

    • Look at the whole story

      Sounds like the teachers did adapt and plan different activities based on this quote from the article. “Instead, teachers led discussions about current events, played games requiring students to make persuasive arguments or practiced meditation.”
      These all sound like great uses of class time to me! It sounds like a student description about classes being “stalled” and it was probably just because they had to switch gears from what they normally do with their iPads.

  • lala

    wow, they sound like crackheads

    • MissAC

      Yeah, remember all those times the article mentions them resorting to all sorts of extremes to get their fix? Fucking hyperbole makes this impossible to have a real dialogue about. Let’s instead compare teenagers, who naturally seek connection, to people with severe substance abuse issues that overwhelm their lives and often kill them and destroy the lives of those connected to them. Because technology is EVIL, right?

  • Deborah Jones

    When I was 16 my mother forced me to take her old cell phone. I never wanted one. That was in like 2000. My sister drives me crazy when we’re eating at a restaurant and she can’t keep her hands off her phone. I threaten, that if she picks up her phone one more time, that she’s paying for everything. That usually gets her to, “let it go”

  • TelmeaStory

    Lovely things but, ever tried to write a 1 page paper on an iPad? Not exactly conducive to scholarship, more of an Apple vending machine.

    • Brittany

      I’ve written large reports on an iPad as well as lectures almost daily. The more you use them the easier it is to type on them and even easier if you get one of the external keyboards that are so easy to get a hold of now days.

    • Vivian

      There are now typing classes that train children to type on their iPads! I can’t imagine doing so, but if we can type so quickly on our phones with our thumbs, maybe whole keyboard typing is possible with some practice

  • A great experiment and one we should probably undertake more often. This experience underscores why we promote the practice of mindfulness, the need to seek moments of wonder, and the importance of connecting to our environment and to each other with intentional acts of kindness.

  • April Gunn

    I guess that’s all well and good for a relatively small group of privileged kids at an affluent private school in a large, liberal city. But I’m not sure how relevant that experience is to…well, everyone else.

    I spent most of my teen years without a cell phone or social media, and I routinely wish I’d had both. I spent a lot of time being lonely and uncertain that I might not have if I’d had more internet and tech exposure early on.

    I think people get so wrapped up in being cynical and apprehensive about technology and how it changes things that they miss how those drawbacks can just as easily be benefits, especially for anyone who doesn’t fit the very narrow definition of normalcy espoused by most nostalgiamongers in their glowingly unrealistic depictions of the good old days.

    Consider a gay, bisexual, or transgender child in a small, conservative community who already feels isolates from peers and family, and whose education leaves something to be desired. Or what about someone with an untreated mental illness who gets no support or even acknowledgement of their problems and needs from the people a genetic accident and geography determined as their community? The internet and social media can mean friends, comfort, information, a support network they never would have otherwise had.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen young people saved from suicidal thoughts or attempts by people on the internet who cared enough to reach out and say “I’m here, you’re not alone.” I have seen people with social anxiety so severe they were barely able to leave their homes come outside and interact with others for the first time in years because of activities organized via social media. I’ve seen films, funded, charities started, art created, friendships forged, love stories written, and lives literally saved that would not, could not have been without the internet.

    Some of us could turn off the phone and go surfing. Others live far from the ocean and have bad joints and brittle bones. Some of us can talk to our parents over dinner. Others of us had to move far away from home to find a good job, and keep up with our loved ones via cell phone.

    How technology factors into a person’s daily routine greatly depends on individual life circumstances. For some, you could be taking away their only connection to those who matter most. So forgive me if I continue to be skeptical about articles and experiments meant to
    remind us all of the isolating effects of technology.

    • Patti Peacock

      You make a lot of good points–the result being that there are pros and cons to technology. I did find the article intersting and the different reactions to those disconnecting from technology for a few days. We live in a small, middle class suburb and our public elementary, middle, and high school provides ono-on-one ipads (1-2 grades) and macbooks (3-12) grade. I have a 3rd grader and 6th grader and we are immersed in technology–in school and away from school. As parents we are figuring out as we go the benefits of technology (academically and socially) and ways it isolates us. Learning to use technology effectively, without it socially crippling our children, is something that we, as friends and community, are all learning together. The combinations and differences of how/when/what to do and use are endless. This is a new age and, as with most change, we muddle through finding the best ways forward and our way might look completely different than someone elses.

    • tcd7747

      Right, diverse groups of people have diverse experiences. It is wise to take note of those who find refuge in social media when living in intolerant places or suffering from a pathology (though for the former I think developing more tolerant physical places is the ultimate goal, lest they become electronic versions of ghettos). At the same time, I’m always wary of those who provide these examples as if to dismiss the experiences of people who do find social media and cell phones to be isolating or detrimental to ways of life they value. We should be able to recognize that the same technology can be godsend to one group but wholly unsatisfying, if not pathology inducing, to others. Having to live in a technological society that fails to provide the kind of belonging they need or desire can feel similarly alienating or oppressive as racial or sexual intolerance.

      • April Gunn

        I’m going to put aside the fact that you compared angst over dependence on recent technology to the systematic oppression and degradation of one group of human beings by another. I’ll just…come back to it.

        I will point out that we’re not talking about people who are fundamentally dissatisfied with modern technology, or who choose to remove themselves significantly or permanently from it (though people who do both exist). We’re talking about people who are fine with technology, who have no inherent, individually motivated desire to remove themselves from it permanently or significantly, who swear off it for awhile, find varying levels of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the experience, and universally go back to using it, perhaps with modifications or perhaps not, as soon as the “social experiment” is over.

        The thing is, these “studies” or “experiments” or whatever you want to call them–in truth they meet the requirements of neither–in and of themselves tell us nothing new or extrapolatable. Technology is useful in different ways for different people. It changes the way we interact with the world around us, and this can be positive or negative depending on circumstances and perspective. To borrow a term from the 90s: Duh.

        There’s a pervasive attitude perpetuated by a certain segment of modern society that we’re all facing the decline of civilization as we know it, and thus impending doom, because of teenagers and their level of dependence on technology. As if teenagers are the only or worst “offenders” when it comes to technological dependency, or as if technological dependency itself is actually some kind of offense.

        The thing is, we were all dependent on technology well before smartphones and ipads came along. Electricity, automobiles, public transportation, indoor climate control, modern medicine, modern methods of industrial production of goods…they’re all technology and we’re all dependent on them to some extent. And at one time or another they were new, and a group of old fuddy duddies were railing about how they would bring an end to civilization as they knew it.

        And I guess they were right, in a way: civilization as they knew it is gone. The world has moved on. In some ways it’s worse and in some ways it’s better, but humanity miraculously survived the big, scary winds of change. What didn’t survive is that generation’s way of life, their mastery of the world they lived in…and therein lies the root of their angst.

        The best thing I can say about this article is that it’s probably the most neutral of its kind I’ve read in terms of tone when it comes to presenting the anecdotes of students who participated in this activity. But neutral as it is, it–and the activity itself–are still part of that overarching cultural anxiety that the generation in power always holds about the role of new technology in shaping society. The root of that anxiety is the fear that their own knowledge and understanding of the world will no longer apply the more things shift.

        Which brings me back to why your comparison doesn’t work. Racial and sexual oppression are part of a system that keeps certain people in society powerless, at a constant disadvantage. Generational alarmism about modern technology is basically people who have the advantage worrying that they’ll lose it if things change too much (as is reactionary anger towards progressive social movements, but that’s a conversation for another day).

    • Vivian

      I agree that social media opens doors to supportive communities we can never imagine to exist otherwise, and I also see that since this “study” (or not really a study) is so specific to a certain group of privileged private school kids, but I view this activity of no phones for 3 days as a chance for students to realize how dependent they are on technology. Once they realize this and once they realize that there are times when they shouldn’t need to depend on technology so much, they will curb their tech use to an amount that is more appropriate to their individual needs.

      Technology IS isolating for most people if they hang onto it so tightly that they can’t live in the moment where they are, if they feel the need to check their phones so often in class that they can’t listen to lectures in class, or if they’re on vacation and they find themselves trying to see what other people are doing during their spring break rather than being present in their own spring break.

      So yes, I’m also very skeptical of how against technology people are, because I see how it benefits so many communities.. basically all communities, but I also see so many kids becoming unable to focus in less stimulating situations and becoming irritated unless they have a piece of technology to take them to another world.

  • Alex

    Ugh, okay. So I see a lot of people saying Oh this that these kids are crackheads and we’re doomed blah blah. Be that as it may, that doesn’t mean criticize them and call them names. They were raised with the ability to get any information around the world in a matter of seconds. Not having that is not easy. And the people saying it is weren’t raised like that. Please don’t be ignorant to the situation.

    • Oarboar

      They’re just annoyed that the kids are on their lawn and won’t get off.

  • Brenda Gutstadt

    A good reality check about the mind shift that has to happen for kids who have not “before and after” awareness, Still no talk of the actual physical effects of these devices i.e. sleep pattern disruption, melatonin reduction and the impacts of blue light emissions on kids eyes and brains. Such an unknown as we plow forward into bringing these devices into our kids classrooms. I recently got my son blue light filter glasses (reduces emissions 30-40%) to help with his chronic insomnia. I also try and seriously restrict his evening usage even if its “for homework”. ps its helped.

  • T. N.

    While we continue to incorporate more technology into various parts of our lives, it is important to reflect on the actual impact. This article uses a sample that is above the middle line in society, but the study is still relevant on other fronts. There may be many others still struggling with the aspect of accessibility to internet, but the issue is something they will eventually face. History will repeat itself; we are not all living in the same moment where we all experience things at the same time.

    The teachers having to adjust their lessons is an important point for educators to realize. Our current generational overlaps currently provide us with educators that are likely to have been experienced in teaching before technology became so prominent in the classroom. However, we will eventually have a generation of educators that likely grew up with technology laced into every lesson plan. Will they be able to react if they suffer technical difficulties? That is a lesson educators should be considering.

    Students should always reflect on what they have experienced. Without some time to adjust their worldly perceptions, they will be missing out on a lot of what life has to offer. However, this is not a burden that is nor should be carried solely by the educational institutions. This will require parents to play an active role in teaching and mentoring their children to take that crucial pause. Updating the world continuously on life events is not a form of reflection.

  • treeeebeard

    wow. This is so sad. So glad I missed this generation by a few years. It wasn’t until I was in high school that smartphones really started to become a thing. Certainly kids used them a lot then, but they definitely didn’t overdose like they do now. I didn’t have a smartphone until college, thankfully, and I really don’t use it that much. I prefer human interaction. The thing that really scares me is raising children in this environment. It’s all well and good to raise them to have discipline when it comes to electronics and social media, but how will they feel being the only self-aware beings among a sea of technology-addicted, self-absorbed blobs? okay, exaggeration. But still…

  • Karen

    Often when we (or their parents or aunts) take trips with our grandsons (ages 6, 10, 12) it is an electronics-free trip: no using an adult’s phone or i-pad or other electronic entertainment. I can’t believe the number of children I see with a parent out shopping (even a short stop for groceries or other items) or even at dinner who must be entertained with some type of electronic device. Their dependence on these devices is being encouraged from a young age by their parents; they aren’t encouraged to entertain themselves or be patient while the adults carry on their business.

  • PegAloi

    After hearing the NPR story on the experiment using the smartphone app to track usage, I had my media studies students try this experiment. Most of them found it very difficult to reduce their usage; those who did were surprised by how many hours they spent per day engaging with their phones and wanted to do something about it. Smartphones are not allowed in my class but I still catch many of them trying to text surreptitiously. They’re addicted. (cross posted to Facebook)

  • Lee

    OMG! STOP THE PRESSES! overprivileged students at a rich, elite school shut off all their expensive tech toys for three whole days!!! Surely worthy of an episode of Gossip Girl!

  • ira_david_socol

    Late to this board but we’ve had robust conversations on Twitter, so I wanted to add to the record here:

    This is such an egocentric exercise for the teachers involved, and the author. It relies on the theory that “technology is what was invented after I was born,” which is, frankly, an embarrassing cognitive construct for any educator.

    So we want to spend a week without technology? Lets do away with books, pens, papers – all massive technologies. Maybe heat and hot water. Surely electric lights. Cars absolutely. Teachers can walk to school – well wait, shoes are surely a technology, so walk to school barefoot. Lets sit in a circle outside and we’ll be on our way…

    Or is it simply the technologies of your students that you are concerned with…

    Too old blog posts: (What is technology?)
    and (A week without Technology – from 2010, when this “idea” was fairly new)

  • Sidney

    I always try to seclude myself from technology as the teens did in this experiment when I need to work on an assignment for school. Even when I try this, I find myself thinking about what may be happening online. Who’s posting and what? Then I can not focus enough on my work, defeating the purpose of what I was trying to do in the first place.
    I also feel some anxiety when I do not know where my phone is. This is why I started purposely not checking my phone at school or at home. I am slowly reducing my exposure to technology, especially my phone. Trying to do this is becoming even more hard because schools are starting to incorporate technology in how we do our homework. Most of my assignments are turned in online, forcing me to use technology.
    Don’t get me wrong, technology is a great invention that is furthering the human race, but I do believe that the bad side of technology is that it interferes with us learning. Now, instead of finding certain things out for ourselves, it can be looked up online and found within seconds.
    I believe that people need to reduce their exposure and use of technology just as was done in the experiment.

  • Ricky

    Wow, this experiment seems like an interesting idea. The particular “Tech Timeout” challenge in this post clearly illuminates both the extent to which many teenagers rely upon technology, and the complications resulting from the removal of technology from education. Indeed, I have found technology to have a complex relationship with education in my high school: it can both enhance learning through efficient ways of accessing information, yet hinder it by providing an easily accessible distraction to students. I also agree, however, with the previous commenter in that we should not be too critical of technology, especially when many less-privileged people don’t have the same opportunities as us. Conducting this same experiment at a less wealthy school with already limited technology access could have far more drastic effects than not being able to check Facebook.

  • Brian

    Hi Schwartz,
    Nice post. I think most of the teens now can’t even live through a day without a phone or other technologies. The reason is because phone can do almost everything for you. The world now is much different than the world before. Before, kids actually hang out and talk, but now they just go on Facebook or other social networks to chat. I think you will be disconnect to the world if you don’t have your phone or technologies for three days. The problem is tech is so important to us now that we can’t live without them. What will you do when you are not near your phone or other technologies?

  • Kanai Gandhi

    I agree that social media is a huge distraction for teenagers, it has turned into a toxic addiction that has opened up the gates of cyber-bullying and the like. However, many schools are being tech-friendly now a days because technology has given them an access to multiple resources and made them more aware of what is happening around them. How can one draw the line between the correct and incorrect use of technology in todays day and age?

  • Fiona

    This experiment sounds like a great way for kids to learn to interact with the world around them rather than becoming consumed by technology. While technology can be helpful in so many ways, it can also cause people to lose the important ability to interact with one another. I always notice that I am having the most fun when I am in a situation where I completely forget to even think about technology and social media. It’s great that some of the kids who did this felt the same way!

  • kayla hussey

    April, I agree with you–the internet creates amazing communities for people who feel they have no one to turn to in their day-to-day lives.

    However, I do think this experiment is worthwhile for anyone to try…someone who feels isolated might finally connect with a peer who feels equally isolated during an experiment like this…they might not be inspired to connect otherwise.

  • Ben Cook

    I’m 19. Disconnected for over a week a while ago. Didn’t phase me.

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Katrina Schwartz

Katrina Schwartz is a journalist based in San Francisco. She’s worked at KPCC public radio in LA and has reported on air and online for KQED since 2010. She’s a staff writer for KQED’s education blog MindShift.

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