Sadly when we go out for dinner the sight is now common – couples sitting opposite each other, not talking, but focusing on the screens of their smartphones. Taking pictures of the food to Instagram – or checking up on what others are doing on Facebook. In our homes, the idea of a TV in a child’s bedroom is passé – instead each member of the family sits with their personal device – no longer sharing the watching experience, but in their own world with their screen. The London Tube has never been a place where strangers speak to each other – but the days of everyone being lost in their daily newspaper or latest bestseller are now replaced by the dreaded smartphones.
There is now mounting evidence that this addition to our phones and to an online life which may or may not represent reality, is not only damaging our social interactions, it is damaging our mental health too – especially that of our teenagers. At a time when they should be creating and developing relationships and practising the skills needed to be successful in the adult world, they are lost in the moment of likes online, or an unattainable image of ‘real life’.
This article helps us to see what the research is indicating – and perhaps how we as educators and parents can help our children towards better mental health and more satisfying adult lives beyond school. Last year we posed the possibility of going ‘phone free’ in the Senior School. We will be revisiting this idea with pupils and parents in coming weeks and would be very happy to hear your thoughts. This is a discussion that cannot be had online.