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Switch It Off!

by Helen Bryant

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider whether or not turning off electronic devices might help focus and sleep.

Preparation and materials

None needed.


  1. How many of you woke up this morning and, as the first thing you did, turn on your phone or check it because you hadn't even turned it off overnight?

    (Take a straw poll)

  2. I wonder how many of you really ‘switch off’? Fully turn off all your devices, your smartphones, tablet, TVs etc.? Turn them off and have a moment when you just sit without any electronic interruptions. For some of you, I think turning off these devices, possibly missing a call, a text, or something on Facebook or Twitter simply doesn't make sense. However, it might mean that you can actual engage with the real world around you or with the people next to you, and talk.

  3. Did you know that there’s a theory that smartphones are responsible for teenagers not getting enough sleep? I've been there myself: just one more go at that level on Candy Crush or another quick look at Twitter in case anyone has mentioned me or anything has changed since I checked five minutes ago. The longer a teenager spends using electronic devices such as tablets and smartphones, the worse his or her sleep will be.

  4. In the theory, more than two hours of screen time after school is strongly linked to both delayed and shorter sleep. The study comes from Norway where almost all the teens in the study said they used the devices shortly before going to bed. If you think about what you did last night before you turned off the light, or even after you switched it off, you might well find you were on a device of some kind or another.

  5. In fact, the study found that, on average, girls spent 5½ hours in front of screens and boys just over 6. The girls were more likely to spend their time chatting online, using social media, Snapchat, Messenger, Twitter and the like, whereas boys would spend more time playing games. This isn't necessarily 6 hours at a time, although for the gamers among you I am sure it is more than possible for you to lose a good few hours at once, but added up throughout the day it comes to a similar amount of time that you spend at school.

  6. So between being at school, being on your smart devices and maybe sleeping, do you ever have some time where you truly ‘switch off’, time to either read or escape, or, even more frighteningly, just do nothing? I am going to see if you can all just sit and do nothing for a minute.

Time for reflection

Spend at least a minute in silence.

Did that feel odd or strange? Did it feel quite nice to just sit without anyone wanting anything from you, without your phone going off, or a message or a programme on in the background? Many people find that taking some time to switch off is beneficial for them. Maybe, before you go to bed at night, you should just take some time to be in the quiet without the glare of a screen. It might mean you sleep better, and it also it might mean that you get some time back for you. You might also realize that by switching off you actually didn't miss anything.

Publication date: May 2015   (Vol.17 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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