Monday, 23 March 2015

"I didn't know what to do

with what would have been my screen time."
A group of secondary school students in the UK apparently tried an "experiment" recently. They tried to go without their social media screen time for a week. 
Most of them failed. Some lasted a few days. Only a couple of them managed to stay away from social media all week.
That they failed to stay away from it does not surprise me. I have seen the teens here. They seem to be permanently attached to their phones. But, you know that. 
What interested me were their comments. Some, perhaps most of them, expected to fail. They didn't think they would be able "live without their phone". They said  things like, "You think you're missing out" and "You've got to keep up..."
The pressure on them must be immense if that is how they feel. I suspect they could learn to live without that pressure - if their friends were in the same position.
But what really alarmed me was the fact that more than one of them said that they didn't know how to fill in the time that would have been the time they spent on social media - their "screen time". They didn't appear to have any other interests with which to fill their time. Teens? Teens with no other interests?
In my teens my peer group played sport - and even I participated by passing the umpire's exam in softball and scoring for netball. Okay, some teens do that - but not all of them. At the last school I attended there were chess groups, Scrabble groups, a folk dance group (run by the students themselves), a ball room dance class (useful if you were going back to a rural community where there were Saturday night "footy" dances). The girls sewed and knitted themselves and their boyfriends scarves in team colours. The boys made complex model airplanes and flew them on the school oval. Most of them participated in the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme programme. Yes, they sat around and gossiped a bit too. The girls though would often be doing something at the same time. Perhaps it was because most of them came from rural areas where you didn't "waste time". 
I don't know how many of them read. It was not the most popular activity during the school day. Some of them, like me, must have read at other times. Talking to some of them in later years I am aware that they did read. We didn't have the opportunity to watch television at school - apart from the rare programme that the teachers deemed a "must". 
There was just one girl in the segment who said something like, "I have this huge pile of books I want to read and I read two of them in what would have been screen time. It was great."
I didn't know whether to shout or cry at her words. Surely screen time should not be a substitute for reading time?
At the Whirlwind's school phones are not permitted to be used during the day. The boarders can keep one in Matron's office and use it to call their parents or guardians in the evenings. It's a severe offence to be found using one at another time. Day girls have to leave their phones in the office complex. 
I told the Whirlwind about the television segment. Her father rings her each evening when she is at school - as far as possible at the same time. It's all she uses the phone for during the week. At weekends she takes it with her but has, so far, only used it to talk to him or me or her best friend's mother. I suspect it is much the same for most of the boarders her age because she thought about it for a bit and then said,
"Well, we don't need it because we see each other all the time - and most of the time we're doing something else."
And most of them read a lot too.


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