Today’s teenagers don’t know life without Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook. Not to mention Twitter, Yik Yak, Whatsgoodly, streaming videos from Netflix, and — not incidentally — using laptops, tablets and smartphones for schoolwork, in class and out. Staples High School’s BYOD (“bring your own device”) policy ensures that students are connected — to the internet, and each other — 24/7.
(That’s not an exaggeration. Some kids today sleep with their phones underneath their pillows, so they won’t miss any 3 a.m. notifications.)
Technology is wonderful. But it’s also awful. It causes stress. It fragments attention. Social media in particular raises unrealistic expectations. It prevents people from actually being present — connected personally, not wirelessly — with real friends and family members, in real time.
No one knows this more than Staples’ guidance counselors. They’re on the front lines, watching students battle with the demands of social media, along with the usual stresses of sky-high expectations in a very competitive community.
The guidance department’s Resilience Project is a way to help teenagers find balance, strength and direction. Counselors regularly share videos, stories and ideas with students, teachers and parents, offering strategies to ease anxiety.
This week, they’re doing more. The Resilience Project proposes a Thanksgiving technology break. For 24 hours — any 24 hours during the holiday — Staples students (and staff!) (parents too!) are urged to step away from all social media. Including (aaargh) texting.
The technology break coincides with another Resilience Project initiative: Teachers are encouraged to not give homework over Thanksgiving weekend, and to delay long-term project due dates to later in the following week.
Without that obligation, and with family and friends nearby, the hope is that for 24 hours, Stapleites can engage — really, truly, not sporadically or half-heartedly — with other human beings.
The Resilience Project suggests that teachers and students discuss the technology break during Communication Time, a 15-minute period on Tuesday after Thanksgiving.
It’s a great idea. Give it a try.
And if you can’t go 24 hours without technology, at least don’t tweet during Thanksgiving dinner.