By: Avrel Festinger (Grade 12)
WPGA has just undergone three days without phones – what does this mean and more importantly: where do we go from here?
This week you have probably encountered a multitude of puns or witty quips associated with phones. Are you ready to unplug? Re-charge? Shut down? There are more, but i’ll spare you from them. This arrival of puns has coincided with our new digital detox. It’s an alliteration – so how bad could it be?
There is no doubt that this generation’s relationship with phones is not the most stable. I can personally admit to logging out of Snapchat, going to Instagram and then logging back into Snapchat in less than a minute. The statistics are slightly terrifying, and they have probably already been preached to you, so I won’t dwell on how many hours a day we spend on our phones, or what cell-phone addiction is. The fact is that a lot of us check our phones so constantly and consistently that it can be argued we are missing out on what the world has to offer. In recent years, schools have involved themselves in their students phone use. For example, according to one Saint George’s student, you are not allowed to use your phone in public spaces at the school. Moreover, it is not surprising that our very own school is now getting involved in student phone usage. This ‘involvement’ has taken the form of a “digital detox.” According to Mr. Parker, head of the WPGA Senior School, this idea did not arrive out of the blue. He explained that, “at the beginning of the year, I asked staff and students about the benefits and challenges of cellphone use within the senior school…we have reviewed policy from other schools, held lunchtime discussion groups with teachers and students and discussed the topic much at staff and administrative meetings.” Phones have become a central topic of discussion in our senior school and as Mr. Parker put it: since at WPGA we, “learn by doing” a detox befits our community.
Some may wonder why this detox is only spanning three days, or where it will lead. Mr. Parker shared that these three days are an “experiment” to see what no-phones in our school looks like. Further, it is a chance to find out, “how the absence of smartphones could affect our personal sense of presence, social interactions and activity choice throughout the day for staff and students.” Like, Mr. Parker stated, not just students are participating in the detox; staff are too. Mr. Parker himself is curious to see if he, “and other adults in the building could cope with going without our phones for an entire 3 days.” Although at times there is a misconception, teenagers are not the only demographic with a ‘phone problem.’ When asked on an instagram poll, if they feel people generally assume kids are on their phones more than adults, 95% of people said yes. When asked if they think this assumption is fair, one student, Betty Pan in grade 11, commented that, “kids and teenagers regardless of whether or not they are ‘addicted’ to tech are assumed to be a part of a generation that’s entirely consumed by constant/unhealthy phone use. I wouldn’t say it’s unjustified…but I think sometimes it just gets frustrating because it’s like we are being generalized…” Although this frustration exists, our school is trying to show us that phone usage has an impact on our lives. Mr. Parker can personally connect to the impact of phones on his day to day life. He shared that, “The speeding up of life does not favour my personality style, i’m usually somebody who needs to slow things down. Now I notice when I go somewhere and I go to buy something and if i’m not able to buy it immediately people begin to apologize.” Mr. Parker went on to discuss the idea of the “acceleration of life” and how it connects to phone usage. Whether it be loosing patience at the grocery store, or constantly needing a source of entertainment, this concept that our lives are passing by, can be concerning.
Although the above is important to consider, the question is whether it is the school’s place to get involved with our phone usage?
Mr. Parker answered this question by bringing up the type of graduate he wants WPGA to produce. This graduate, “can act upon the world but not be acted upon…[will] not be a victim of the world.” Mr. Parker floated the idea that phones, and what smart phones can provide (acceleration of life, absent mindedness etc…) can hinder people from achieving critical thought. Now, the school is trying to see if that is true. More specifically, they are experimenting to see how students will be without their phones.
The detox is not an evil-mastermind plan that has been in the works for years with the eventual goal of banning all cell phones. Mr. Parker mentioned that a complete cell-phone and technology ban is not “reflective of reality.” Therefore, what can realistically be done in our school community, is an inquiry into the effects of phones. This detox will examine aspects of our lives such as communication, presence, availability and relationship. Since, this is an experiment there will be results. According to Mr. Parker, over the past few months information has been, “collected into a massive feedback document trying to capture it all.” Before we see these results, advisory talks will continue and students are encouraged to write to Mr. Parker directly. No matter if you are a supporter, opposer or indifferent to this process, your opinion matters. When making any type of decision, involvement is key and WPGA is trying to achieve this. Through student debates held at lunch time and various other forms of conversation, the school is trying to learn about what the student body thinks about cell phones and their impact on our lives. You are encouraged to contribute to the discussion.
You may be wondering: what will we be detoxing from next? Mr. Parker brought up the idea of sugary drinks (eg. lemonade and san pellegrino) in the caf and the possibility of addressing them next. Sugary-drink puns may be harder to land but don’t SWEET it, if this idea comes to fruition, there will be plenty of jokes to follow.