Could You Make It a Week Without Your Phone?


I had a conversation with my mom the other day that went something like this:

Mom: Please send me an email with Trevor’s (our son’s) new address.

Me: I texted you that address two weeks ago.

Mom: I don’t read my texts; I don’t know how. In fact, I don’t think my cell phone even works.

Me: I’ll walk you through it (believing she still had an iPhone; she later told me that she took her iPhone back and got a flip phone).

Mom: I hate these things.

My mother is someone who could easily give up her cell phone. For a week, for a month, perhaps even for the rest of her life. She’s not a fan. She says she only carries one in case of an emergency. But the last time she really got into a jam, she borrowed someone else’s phone. (I’m happy to report that since the above conversation, she now does know how to at least turn her phone on!)

And then there’s the rest of us. Could I give up my phone for an entire week? I’d have to have a compelling reason to. And quite frankly right now, I can’t think of one. I’m not a phone-aholic, but there’s not a day of my life that I don’t send texts and make/receive calls. I use it to stream music when I jog, check for the cheapest gas when I need a fill-up, watch the upcoming weather reports and take photos of things that I think are interesting. Occasionally, I’ll use it to go on Facebook.

And the average teenager uses his or her phone far more often than even I do. As part of a class, nine sophomores at Black Hills High School in Washington state tracked the hours they spent on their phones every day: At the low end, teens might spend four-and-a-half hours daily on their phones. Other days, they’d spend upwards of nine hours. Nine!

But then, their teacher, David Heywood, asked these same students to watch a documentary called Screenagers (a film I haven’t seen, but my wife found it beneficial for the families she was working with at the time; here’s the trailer:

And then  Heywood did the unthinkable: He asked these nine teens to put away their phones.

You can learn what happened from NBC news by clicking here.

I applaud these brave sophomores for giving it a try. You can tell from the video that their little experiment taught them a lot…and by extension they were teaching us as well.

They didn’t just give up their phones, by the way. Sure, those smartphones were a big part of the experiment: All nine of these students’ cell phones were locked away. Students were given flip phones in case of emergencies. But they were also forbidden from playing video games. The only time they could use their computers or laptops were for school work. They were forbidden from engaging with social media for the whole week. And they were asked to track their thoughts via a video diary.

Although initially, these students felt regret over agreeing to this experiment (“I’m going insane,” “This sucks!”), by the end of the week, it was obvious they were seeing significant benefits. They were hanging out with family more. Playing guitar. Catching up with homework. Reading a book. Having great conversations over dinner.

Now in fairness, nearly every student admitted to a little cheating (which further underscores the difficulty), but all saw that there were worthwhile aspects of going phone-free. But they also couldn’t wait to get their cell phones back at the end of the week to get caught up on the life they perceived they missed.

What about you? Could you go a week without your phone? If you’re a parent, do you think you could handle a “no tech Tuesday” rule in your house? A full weekend? A full week? How about a family rule that says no tech at the dinner table?

At the very least, would you be willing to examine your own phone usage (perhaps diary it for a week)? If it seems excessive, would you be willing to cut back?


Who wrote this?

Bob Waliszewski is the director of the Plugged In department. His syndicated "Plugged In Movie Review" feature is heard by approximately 9 million people each week on more than 1,500 radio stations and other outlets and has been nominated for a National Religious Broadcaster's award. Waliszewski is the author of the book Plugged-In Parenting: How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids With Love, Not War. You can follow him on Twitter @PluggedInBob.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Skulatikus More than 1 year ago
But I can't give up my phone for a week! How else would I read Plugged In articles?

All joking aside: As a college student, I frankly can't afford to be without my phone. It gives me quick access to email (which, at my university, is the standard medium for many important communications from my professors and the university in general.) Furthermore, it enables me to keep in touch with, for example, people I'm working with on group projects. Without it, my ability to function in my academic environment would be greatly impaired.
Maria Herrera More than 1 year ago
Dear Plugged in,
  I am a young adult, I have been raised on Focus on the Family from Adventures in Odyssey on Saturday morning to Focuses daily broadcast. I've listened to The Novacom Saga (my favorite by the way) to The Screwtape letters (radio theater) to marriage and family broadcasts with Mr. Gary Chapman and Kevin Leman. You taught me, and indeed still teach me, discernment when I click on my Plugged in app. Thank you for taking care of me and being a consistent and reliable resource. I do have one question. What do you have for me now? I've read that 70% of people left their faith as a young adult. I wonder, even looking at my own church weather, in part, this is because there is no bridge for us. Going off to college or just getting out on our own sometimes feels like a no man's land. Would you consider making something to reach other young adults like me
- Sincerely, Maria, one young life changed because of this family.
bobed More than 1 year ago
No, I couldn't go without my phone. Without my phone, I would be unable to coordinate when to pick up my children from school or soccer practice. I wouldn't be able to instantly talk with my dad, who lives four hours away and can't speak on his own due to a stroke. (He can type better than speak, but that isn't saying a whole lot. And yes, my 77-year-old dad does have his own cell phone! The world is grand.) Without my phone, I would be unable to call 911 in an emergency. And without my phone, I'd be awfully bored during doctors' office waits or subway rides. Re: the former, yes, I know doctors' offices have magazines, but those are all Cosmopolitan or Elle. I'm not interested. And re: the subway, yes, I know what you're going to say - bring a book! And this is the part where I remind you that the Internet contains all the information of human history, including every book ever written, so you never know what a person is looking at when they're staring at their phone. ;-)
Dan Haynes More than 1 year ago
I agree phones can be time wasters and enable a lot of procrastination, and people need to police themselves for that, and parents need to guide their kids through that when they are younger. But seriously...what's next? Incandescent lighting-less Monday? Movable type-free Sunday? Good luck with that Bible study! Internal combustion engine-free Friday? Have fun walking to and from youth the dark!

So far today I've used my phone to check on a prescription and my bank balance, talk to and text my mom back and forth regarding my grandmother's care, and make afterschool pickup arrangements with my daughter. I also read this blog post. I understand you guys at FotF have to get us parents riled up about things to get us into the online bookstore to buy the resource that provides the solution to the problem you convinced me I had, but come on.