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Lab School experiments with Screen-Free Week

Filed in Archive by on May 22, 2019

True to its name, the BCHS Laboratory School, doesn’t shy away from creating educational experiences that are experimental. Science Teacher and Lab School Coordinator, Dave Lendrum, decided he had seen enough high schoolers obsessed with their screens and decided to do something about it:

“I had done research with a student on a similar topic and found many articles that linked screen time with declining mental health. I thought that the Lab School was the perfect place to test reduced screen time and its effects.”

Therefore, Mr. Lendrum invited all of his students (grades 9-12) to participate in National Screen-Free week from April 29th to May 5th. The teachers also created fun after-school activities designed to take their minds off their screens. Activities ranged from a bike ride on the Rail Trail to organized board games.

At the end of the week, a survey was conducted and the results were surprising. Roughly 79% of the 76 students currently enrolled in Lab School took part in attempting to reduce their time on screens during the week. Twenty-four of those students successfully reduced their screen time by 1-2 hours. Seventeen students actually sliced off 2-3 hours when compared to the previous week. One student went so far as to completely go “cold turkey” for the week!

Students largely took advantage of the “limits” feature of their smartphones in order to create change. Others self-selected other activities to replace their screen-time such as moving their phone away from them when at rest, doing homework, or reading. Others replaced their screen-time with other activities such as drawing, dancing, and going outside to exercise. One participant realized they spent more time with family and actually “hung out with my parents” more during the week.

The psychological effects of the study ran the gamut. While a few students found themselves actually feeling more anxious and/or stressed out about what they might be missing out on, most reported beneficial results. Here are just a sample:

  • I was less grumpy than usual.
  • I was a bit happier and not as paranoid so to speak when my phone got a notification.
  • I was less stressed out and actually ate healthier, because sometimes I watch TV and eat junk mindlessly.
  • I actually think I felt a lot better in all ways.
  • It was a more productive week for my schoolwork and I spoke more with my family.

Several students appreciated having the perspective and plan to continue curbing their screen-time, “I read an article about how the brains of this generation crave constant stimulation. Apparently, teens in one study chose to give themselves electric shocks instead of being alone with their thoughts. Interesting! I think I will continue to limit my screen time. The activities I did instead were much more fulfilling.”

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