72h Offline Challenge for Teenagers

Monika Kozub
November 24th 2016

Around 100 teenagers, between the ages of 12 and 18, agreed to withstand 72 hours totally offline: no phone, no computer, no TV. The University of Gdansk, together with Dbam o Mój Z@sięg Foundation, decided to run this experiment to estimate teenagers' Internet addiction scale. A tech-survival for those who see unlimited web access as natural as water flowing in their tap. What were the results?

"Our main goal was to create a void as a result of being unable to use mobile devices and digital media" says Maciej Dębski from Dbam o Mój Z@sieg Foundation. "We assumed that this void would provoke teenagers to look at digital world from a different angle than they normally do". The task was simple: switch off all the devices and continue the normality of everyday life. They had three special assignements to complete: set a meeting with a friend in town, talk to their grandparents about the world before the Internet era and make a poster with their colleagues at school. They were asked to keep a journal and write down their observations. After 72 hours, all the data were collected and analyzed.

The first thing most of the participants experienced was boredom, which came as no surprise to the researchers. After some time the kids got used to it and started looking for each other company to pass time. They rediscovered the simple pleasure of chatting with family members or playing board games. The most difficult part was going to school and watching their friends using smartphones. It turned out that all the important communications, such as organizational matters, were only published online. Another struggle was dealing with very simple tasks, like setting the alarm. Kids didn't know how to wake up on time without their phones and they ended up being late because they coudn't estimate the travel time without Google Maps.

We all know the problem of Internet addiction in young people is pretty serious and not that new. Do you remember the controversial Chinese military-style boot camp where parents send their sons in the hope of break their Internet addiction? Researches show that the 84.9% of teenagers know at least on person affected by online life addiction and 1/3 of kids feel anxious when they don't have a working phone with them.

"Technology takes over in [some person's] life. I don't want to say that technology is bad. Everything was created for poeple. We just need to know how to use it wisely" one of the participants wrote in the diary.

Source: Gazeta Wyborcza. Image: Screenagers movie

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