It’s lunchtime at Greenwood. The Lodge is humming with laughter and conversation - and there’s not a cell phone in sight.
Starting in 2017-2018, our Lodge was designated a cell-phone-free zone. We didn’t take this decision lightly. The policy was based on a growing body of research indicating that face-to-face interactions between adolescents are rapidly declining, and that this trend is leading to unhappiness and strained social relationships. In her article “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?”, renowned psychologist and teen-smart-phone-use expert Jean M. Twenge recounts a conversation with 13-year-old Athena:
“Athena told me that when she does spend time with her friends in person, they are often looking at their device instead of at her. ‘I’m trying to talk to them about something, and they don’t actually look at my face,’ she said. ‘They’re looking at their phone, or they’re looking at their Apple Watch.’
“‘What does that feel like, when you’re trying to talk to somebody face-to-face and they’re not looking at you?,’ I asked. ‘It kind of hurts,’ she said. ‘It hurts….I could be talking about something super important to me, and they wouldn’t even be listening.’”
Twenge’s research underscores the importance of encouraging students to set aside their virtual world for the real one, especially where their social relationships are concerned. At Greenwood, we want to do our part to make this happen for our students.
Since introducing this policy at the school, there has been a sea change in lunchtime interactions. Students sit together in lively groups, eating their lunch as they chat with a group of friends. They are truly focused on each other, and on strengthening relationships. Our hope is that the policy has helped students to find a better balance between their virtual lives and in-person interactions, and that these changes support their ongoing mental and emotional health.