No Phone, No Problem

 

New studies and reports vindicate VISIONS no-tech policy

 

No Phone, No Problem

 

New studies and reports vindicate VISIONS no-tech policy

VISIONS has always run tech-free summer programs for high school students (no cell phones, laptops or other gadgets). While it might seem initially alarming to participants, it’s a policy guided mostly by our observations. We’ve seen that when teens put their phones away, they are more able to genuinely connect with other people and their surroundings. We’ve also witnessed how high-tech gadgets can accentuate the economic gap between us and local residents with fewer material resources, creating a chasm precisely where we want a bridge.

It’s not that we believe technology is inherently bad. At its best, the internet opens up the world, expands access to important ideas and alternative points of view and creates opportunities — all things we strive toward at VISIONS. But we also understand that technology has a downside.

Since VISIONS started 30 years ago, the research has been steadily catching up with our no-tech policy. In 2018, several important studies helped crystallize some of the disheartening impacts of social media and screen time on young people.

 

  • The first truly comprehensive study of college-age students revealed that time spent on social media (Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram) is linked to increased levels of depression and loneliness.  
  • Another study found that recording and sharing images diminishes people’s memories of an experience, potentially preventing people from remembering the very events they are attempting to preserve.
  • A cognition study published in The Lancet found that children who spend more than two hours on screens every day tend to perform more poorly on cognition tests.

Other news stories captured the concerns and frustrations of parents, reflecting what we hear from family members who routinely list our “unplugged” programs as a reason they chose VISIONS.

 

  • Activist investors drafted an open letter to Apple calling on the company to focus on how its devices impact kids. They wrote, “social media sites and applications for which the iPhone and iPad are a primary gateway are usually designed to be as addictive and time-consuming as possible, as many of their original creators have publicly acknowledged,” adding that “it is both unrealistic and a poor long-term business strategy to ask parents to fight this battle alone.”
  • The New York Times reported on a trend in Silicon Valley, where parents who have made successful careers in tech are going to great lengths to reduce screen time for their own children.

The growing consensus is that the benefits of technology must, at the very least, be weighed against their costs. At VISIONS, we believe living, working and hanging out with new friends in an unfamiliar culture — without the distraction of personal technology — can enhance the vivid memories and deep connections that nurture young people.

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