A Pandemic of Its Own: Screen Time Addiction

Austin Li

At the beginning of this year, I accidentally left my phone in the car when my parents dropped me off at school. I didn’t think too much of itapart from rummaging through my empty pockets a couple of times, my day went on as normal. But then I received an email from my mom titled “your phone is in New York”: my parents had left to visit family in New York for four days, taking my phone with them.

My immediate thought was to locate my iPad from 7th grade. Instead, I challenged myself: I could try to just go without a phone. How hard could it be? 

I ended up having a lot more awkward conversations that day: the color of a pencil case, the size of the school hallways, and the school lunch. Although difficult, I noticed a refreshing change from the repetitive phrases people typed during a text conversation. As a more authentic form of communication, my in-person talks were far more engaging than stale online interactions. 

Snapchat, Instagram, and Messages are ubiquitous in the digital age. Initially a tool to facilitate connections between friends and family, social media has developed into an entirely new living environment. Facebook recently rebranded with the name “Meta”, symbolic of the metaverse. This completely virtual world opens a new realm of reality where users can shop, play games, and spend cryptocurrency, causing them to avoid venturing into the ‘real world’.

Within our schools, social media is a destructive force in students’ daily lives. At the core of online toxicity, procrastination and privacy is a change in the way we process information. Students who are obsessed with their phones become ingrained within a digital environment. As technology becomes more intelligent, the line between our decisions and the decisions technology makes for us becomes blurry. At some point, we could be giving up our human autonomy to computer algorithms. 

So what does all of this have to do with a Lexington High School experiment? Students, consumed by their phones, often play into the story of losing control. Thus, I propose a contest: to watch how long students can go without their phones during school. The winners are those who can stay away from their phones the longest. 

This contest would dramatically change the school environment. Most students wouldn’t know what to do with themselves. Apart from the practical problems of needing to call your parents in the middle of the day, this challenge poses another difficult task for LHS students: what will you spend your time doing without your phone? You might have to start that conversation with the half-friend you’ve been sitting with for math for half the year now. Most students are going to fail within a day. The brave ones will go for around a week. The ones without phones will be having the best times of their lives. 

So, how long can you go without your phone?