If you have been at Dalat long enough, you may remember that our school theme ten years ago was “DISConnect: Relate, Recharge, Reconnect.” That was the year we introduced one-to-one devices in our high school classrooms. We were concerned about students becoming too engrossed in technology, so we focused on how to make wise choices in using their technology – to not negatively impact their relationships.
Ten years and one pandemic later, we have become even more reliant on technology in our daily lives. In school, all our students have access to tech devices. In fact, many students have two or more devices in their backpacks. We were so thankful for the ways technology allowed us to stay connected during the lockdowns, including video calls, online learning, movie watch parties, and even the virtual playground. However, most of us found those to be poor substitutes for “the real thing.”
Now that we have opportunities to talk, play, and learn together again, we also need to retrain ourselves and our students to disconnect from those devices. Before leaving for the Senior Sneak, some of the seniors (and their parents) were worried about not having Wi-Fi for four days. By the end of the trip, though, many realized that they had not even missed their phones, and the dead batteries proved it. Taking time away from our devices is healthy. There are scores of articles online about why this is the case, but we have now lived the reality and experienced the negative effects of too much technology for ourselves.
The challenge now is finding a way to stop. Like everything else, this starts with a decision. Maybe you want to start small with device-free meals. Our students eat together in the cafeteria every day with no phones or computers, and they spend time talking to each other. They know how to do this already! Maybe you need to consider deleting a few apps from your phone for a while. Perhaps you are ready to go for a technology-free day or weekend. For this to be successful with students, it helps to fill the time with something else. Our dorm programs try to do this each year, and the students plan activities ahead of time so that the students end up not even missing the time away from their devices.
You may need to take small steps, or you may be ready to take the plunge into a full digital detox. Wherever you are in the process, I want to encourage you to set boundaries and take breaks from the digital world. It is very easy to waste time online playing games and watching videos, but time spent investing in face-to-face relationships is never wasted