by Lindsey Winter
Master of Communication in Digital Media
There is a movement brewing in the technology community, and anecdotally, in many of us. We regret time lost on social media, gaming apps, and messaging apps. Technology has the ability to significantly enhance our lives… and give us a sense of connection. But the consequences of not adopting a healthy balance with these ever-present devices are grave. The science is still emerging about how our brains are negatively affected by some of the ways we interact with our phones, but we do know that our ability to concentrate, create original ideas, establish healthy social relationships, and develop empathy is inhibited by constant digital distractions. As author and podcaster Manoush Zomorodi says, “…teaching people, especially kids, how to use technology to improve their lives and to self-regulate needs to be part of digital literacy.”
The 5-Day Phone Challenge teaches kids to take charge of their digital lives instead of being controlled by them. This voluntary program is presented and implemented at school. Each day, participating students are introduced to a simple, actionable challenge designed to bring awareness about a risky smartphone behavior. Using data and real life examples, teachers offer a short explanation about why that behavior is potentially harmful, and challenges students to consider an alternative behavior. The following day, students discuss and reflect on the ease or difficulty of modifying that behavior and consider if it is a ‘norm’ they might adopt permanently.
Armed with more knowledge, perspective, and reflection of their own digital habits, these students are then empowered to build healthy, sustainable relationships with their technology.