Tech-Dependent Seattle Students Rattled By ‘Tech Time Out’

Most of us realize how teens have become more and more reliant on technology — they seem to be plugged in all the time, and the actual numbers are staggering. A 2011 study by Nielsen found that:

Cell phone users age 13 to 17 send and receive an average of 3,705 texts per month. That doesn’t even count online chatting, posting or tweeting.

Habits like this worry educators who fear that screen time will have a long term affect on kid’s brains and “their ability to plan, retain information and communicate face-to-face”.

Claudia Rowe of The Seattle Times writes that Issaquah High school plans on changing that for at least 3 days while their students will be participating in a Tech Timeout Academic Challenge. Out of the school’s 2,000 students, 600 will be disconnected from all social media, cell phones and iPads for three days. 250 students are beginning the event with a mass sleepover at the school. Activities on the schedule are board games and face to face conversation.

The school hopes this will help the students realize their dependence on technology and give them the desire to communicate in a more old fashioned way.

 “Even after timeout started, it was pretty clear that some students were still using their phones — they kind of waved them at us in defiance,” said filmmakers Marty Riemer and Michael Stusser, who will be documenting the withdrawal.

Stusser himself participated in the experiment and found it “extremely difficult” and was bored within seconds. Students may find this challenge even harder since technology is so deeply embedded in everything they do from movies to homework.  Reimer and Strusser found early on that students were easily rattled by the inability to plan ahead.

“They’re not even aware they need to do it. The idea of planning ahead and not at the last minute sending a text out is totally unheard of for this generation,” said Riemer, recalling an Issaquah student who panicked Monday when she was unable to call her mom and tell her about the Tech Timeout. “We know how important technology is to our society, but there’s a big difference between using it and overusing it.”

Foresters Life Insurance sponsors the event and conducted another mini test last year at Chief Sealth High that was documented by Reimer and Stusser. They found the students to be very hesitant and extremely attached to their devices.

Over 5,000 students across the US and Canada have already taken the Tech Timeout Academic Challenge.