Vail Valley schools, hospital urge you to set aside your screen | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley schools, hospital urge you to set aside your screen

‘Disconnect to Reconnect’ is a five-day challenge to get your eyes off your screen and onto your world

Lisa Strohman, J.D., Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of the book “Unplug: Raising Kids In A Technology Addicted World,” writes that 23% of children, ages eight to 18, report feeling “addicted” to video games.
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Take the pledge

Eagle County schools and Vail Health have established an online pledge form at UnplugEagleValley.com.

VAIL — In a world where perception drives reality and “google” is a verb, local schools are encouraging us to unplug for a week.

The Eagle County school district is challenging students and community members to take a five-day break from social media and video games, May 13-17. The goal is to reconnect more directly with one another.

Ironically, most of the research for this story was done online.

The drive started last year when Eagle Valley Middle School tried a Disconnect to Reconnect program. That was part of its membership requirements to become an official “No Place for Hate (NP4H)” school. This month, five more schools are launching Disconnect to Reconnect initiatives: Eagle County Charter Academy, Eagle Valley Middle, Gypsum Creek Middle, Homestake Peak School, and Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy.

Control your screens, not the reverse

Lisa Strohman, J.D., Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of the book “Unplug: Raising Kids In A Technology Addicted World” was part of the Eagle County Youth Coalition’s Eat Chat Parent series.

Among Strohman’s statistics:

  • 75% of teens have cell phones and average 4,000 sent and received text messages a month
  • 97% of teens play computer games and 27% of those play online with strangers.
  • 23% of children, ages eight to 18, report feeling “addicted” to video games.
  • Research clearly shows that technology overuse is detrimental to children and teens whose brains are still developing; it can lead to increased chances of developing ADHD, depression, apathy and anxiety.
  • In its extremes, technology addiction can result in violence and fatalities.

In her book “How to Break Up with Your Phone,” researcher and author Catherine Price writes that, “On Average, Americans spend more than four hours a day on their phones. That amounts to about 28 hours a week, 112 hours a month, or 56 full days a year.” http://www.catherine-price.com/how-to-break-up-with-your-phone

Meanness megaphone

We may or may not be louder than we once were, but along with its benefits, technology and social media can be a meanness megaphone.

“Technology has a lot of benefit. Our young people think we’re oblivious if we talk about nothing but the evils of technology,” Dr. Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D. said during an Eat Chat Parent presentation.

But there is a dark side. According to http://www.dosomething.org, nearly 43 percent of kids have been bullied online, and one in four experienced cyberbullying more than once.

Locally, almost 25 percent of middle school students reported being cyberbullied in the past 30 days, according to the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey.

On average, teens spend seven to nine-plus hours per day (outside of school) on their devices.

Technology and social media are not going away, Hinduja said, but we’d be well served to use it less often and more wisely.

“With more and more research on the detrimental effects of social media and gaming, it is increasingly important for us to help students achieve balance,” EVMS Principal Eric Mandeville said. “And, adults need the help, too. Parents who took the pledge last year reported that they were more present with their family in the evening. That’s important for students.”

Away for the Day

Local middle schools are headed that way already with their “away for the day” policy. Students are asked to stow their phones during school hours.

Adding a weeklong commitment that includes home life gives everyone a chance to realize just how much they may be sacrificing for the instant gratification provided by technology, said Kayleen Schweitzer, school counselor at Eagle Valley Middle School.

“Each day during the Disconnect week, we start announcements with research and tips on how to successfully give up social media,” Schweitzer said. “Studies show that teens who spend less than one hour a day on screen are the happiest.”

Graphic courtesy of Common Sense

Will Cook, president and CEO of Vail Health, says awareness regarding the dangers of technology is both a mental and health issue. Disconnect to Reconnect has Vail Health’s support, Cook said.

“I, for one, am looking forward to taking a break from my devices and spending more time with my family in beautiful Colorado,” Cook said in an announcement.