25 October 2022
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Since announcing, at Speech Day, that we would be “banning” cellphones after half-term, I have received many emails from parents – both for and against the initiative. I knew it would spark debate amongst our boys, but I am slightly intrigued at the level of debate it has sparked among parents.
As a learning institution debate is essential. I am delighted.
A few things: I addressed all the boys on Friday at assembly and framed the initiative as a challenge. In essence, we are challenging ourselves to live without our phones for a month. Among the various aspects I highlighted is the fact that we all reach for our phones when we have a few moments to ourselves, we then click on our favourite app and “allow” the algorithm to feed us a dose of entertainment or information at its will. My challenge is for us to remove ourselves from this virtual circle of influence by not having access to our phones for a month.
I believe the boys, by and large, will rise to this challenge.
Furthermore, the volume of research on what technology is doing to our brains (and importantly to young minds) gives me reason to press on with this initiative.
I also mentioned that this will be difficult. We have become accustomed to the world of constant connectivity, but we have also become pawns in the hands of algorithms which shape our perspectives and opinions. A frightening place, if you ask me!
So, onto the “how”:
1) Boys will be asked to hand in their phones when they return from half-term;
2) WhatsApp and other forms of social media will be opened up on our network at particular times in the day and can be accessed by the boys via their laptops;
3) All boys have Microsoft Teams installed on their laptops, which enables them to call you or message you via this platform; and
4) Boys can take their phones with them when on leave – although I have challenged boys to stretch themselves and see whether they can resist this urge / need.
Lastly, for every email I have received critical of this idea, I have received countless more encouraging us to try this out.