Screenagers and Holderness

The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Holderness School.  The Picador serves to stimulate discourse through the thoughtful and respectful exchange of ideas and recognizes that a range of perspectives must be considered in order to foster such discourse. 


The week we got back from Winter Break, students were required to go to an assembly and watch the Screenagers, a documentary on the effects of screen time. For some, the mention of Screenagers is met with laughs and groans, but it has also made people more observant of their screen use. Even if students don’t change their habits it has still made them more aware. 


Two weekends ago, I visited The White Mountain School for a conference on women in the outdoors. While there, I noticed some things about the conference participants that were different than Holderness. We always hear Mr. Peck talk in assembly about how people are frequently impressed by the lack of public use of phones at Holderness. I, however, had always doubted that due to the fact that I often see people on their phones between and even in classes. I admit I figured it was a way for Mr. Peck to guilt trip us into not having our phones.


At the conference, however, I saw that Holderness is, in fact, doing a good job of limiting screens in public. At one point, my group was warming up inside after a cold fat bike ride. The entire group was on their phones. One girl, in particular, was watching Netflix with earbuds in and not listening to any conversation. I had stowed my phone in my bag with no intention of getting it out, but I felt awkward sitting there while all of the other students were on their phones. Maybe it was because I was in an unfamiliar environment that I noticed it, but I feel that Screenagers did make us more aware.


Back at Holderness, I have noticed that the movie has become an inside joke to some, but in mentioning the film it also makes us more aware of our use of screens. You hear jokes at lunch tables when someone calls someone else a screenager, and the person who is on their phone usually puts it away. While it may not have been the intended effect of the film to be used as a type of barb towards another peer it certainly is effective.


The idea of using our phones less is not a new one. We have been told over and over again to get off our phones; however, most of the time we don’t feel a need to change our habits unless we are directly shown just how much we are using our phones. In a recent IOS update, Apple included a screen time tracker, and I was shocked by the amount that I am mindlessly watching YouTube on my phone. The amount of time I was wasting motivated me to be more conscious of my use. 


Screenagers has certainly made us more aware. Will we make changes with respect to our use of technology? Hard to say.  Are we more aware now?  Yes, and that is at least a step in the right direction.