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Impington Village College

Device-Free Day to support World Mental Health Day Wednesday October 10th

Over this past week all students in Years 7 to 11 have had the opportunity to attend an assembly presented by myself on the hazards of excessive mobile phone or device use.

I did this by comparing the signs and symptoms of addiction taken from a drug/alcohol context to show the students that the symptoms of addiction are very similar; in particular I focussed on:

  1. Denial - I asked the students who considered themselves to be slaves to their devices, very few raised their hands.

  2. The person is unable to stop - I highlighted the number of times we see students walking from A to B while on their phones

  3. Withdrawal symptoms - I showed them an image of a sad clown and joked that he had lost his devices as his parents had confiscated them - a light hearted attempt at reminding them how they felt when the devices were taken away.

  4. Health problems - I explained the importance of sleep on adolescent brains (NB I totally recommend this book Why we sleep by Matthew Walker a superb exploration into the importance of sleep on growth and learning)  the blue light emitted by screens suppresses the production of melatonin which can contribute to a myriad of health problems

  5. Social Sacrifices - I showed them a photo of a group of adults, seated next to each other, but all on their phones.  I wanted them to reflect on the times the students in the Prom or K block are sat next to each other but have headphones plugged in and not engaging with others in conversation

  6. Constant supply - I commented on how frequently I am seeing students with power bars in college - students are zapping their device batteries so quickly that they need to boost the battery during the day

I did emphasise that all of this is not the students fault - the technology designers are hijacking key brain triggers to encourage some age groups to look at their devices over 150 times per day (although other articles suggest as low as 28 times per day - still over 10,000 per year)

The Solution:

There are some superb blogs and articles on how to reduce the effect of mobile device use and I will share them here. I think this educated and informed approach really is the only solution for us. Clearly, these devices are not going to vanish so we need to learn, very quickly, how to protect ourselves from the damaging impact of excessive use and look after our psychology.

I particularly enjoyed the information in these two sites…

Centre for Humane Technology

How technology hijacks people's minds

In summary, I encouraged the students to adopt these simple practices on the slide below

I also shared a list of apps on the presentation that students can access to help them track their use of mobile devices during the day.

Wednesday 10th October is World Mental Health Day - the focus this year is Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World. To mark the day we will hold a device free day in college. We will not sanction students for using their phones, we hope that be clearly setting out the dangers and encouraging them to be the responsible citizens we strive to develop, that they will opt in to this initiative willingly.

Please please encourage your children to take part and please find the time to read through these articles and discuss the wider issues with them. I really hope to be able to share some feedback next week on a successful, analogue, day for students.