Local teens take a technology timeout
February 4, 2014
By Jyot Sandhu
Issaquah High School senior Robin Lustig wasn’t supposed to be on her phone, but she checked it anyway.
“I definitely had a slip-up,” she said. “I check my phone every five minutes, even if I know for a fact I don’t have any text messages or any missed calls. That’s what society is these days. You have to be updated constantly with what’s on Twitter, what’s on Instagram.”
Lustig and nearly 600 other students at Issaquah High School stopped using technology for three days beginning Jan. 13, as part of a technology timeout hosted by a documentary filmmaker. That meant no computers, cellphones or social media.
The experiment was documented by radio broadcaster Marty Riemer and journalist Michael Stusser. Riemer directed and Stusser starred in “Sleeping with Siri,” an award-winning documentary that saw Stusser indulge in everything technology and social media 24 hours a day for one week, before going cold-turkey for the next week.
The tech-timeout, originally intended to be a three-minute teaser video, will become a full-fledged documentary, with the experiment being conducted at hundreds of high schools throughout the country.
“We decided to do it with kids who make me look like a chump when it comes to technology,” Stusser said. “They understood that they’re in a place where they could use a break.”
The break from technology was well worth it for many students.
“It was really a refreshing experience to see everyone actually interacting with people around them, as opposed to kind of nodding to what people are saying and being so zoned into their phones,” Lustig said.
Not every student made it through all three days. According to Stusser, many students used their cellphones as alarm clocks, and took that brief moment to tweet, play “Candy Crush” and send Snapchats.
Some teachers and parents were bigger obstacles than the students. Stusser noticed that a couple of teachers posted homework to Twitter or Facebook, so they felt the timeout was an inconvenience and had to adjust.
“A lot of teachers were annoyed because a lot of students couldn’t get their homework done, because they weren’t supposed to use their computers because of the tech-timeout,” Lustig said. “They didn’t have the resources that they’re used to having to complete it.”
Lustig’s father works in technology, but that didn’t stop him from seeing the benefit from a complete unplug.
“He thought it was weird that it was happening, especially around finals week, but he did see the point behind it,” Lustig said. “My mom won’t even use her Kindle because she thinks books should be made on paper.”
Students whose parents had issues with the tech-timeout could opt for the half-in option, meaning phones could be used to communicate with families.
“Parents like being tethered to their kids,” Stusser said. “‘I need you to pick up your little brother from school.’ ‘I need you to get something from the store on your way home.’”
Despite the social, academic and familial obstacles, Lustig said she believes her fellow classmates did a good job.
“It was interesting to see how dependent we all are on technology, even with things such as academics,” she said. “If a student was really driven to taken on the challenge, they definitely found a way around it.”