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Don’t Phub Me!

Focusing on the important things in life

by Claire Law

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explore the new phenomena of ‘phubbing’ and ‘presenteeism’. 

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Phubbing) and the means to display them.

  • You will also need another member of staff to introduce the assembly, as seen in Point 1. For the purposes of this assembly, you are referred to as the Leader.

  • Optional: you may wish to arrange for the Bible passage found in Mark 5.25–34 to be read in Point 7 of the assembly.


  1. Staff member: Good morning, students. Thank you for the way you entered the hall and welcome to our assembly. (Insert your name) is leading today’s assembly.

    The staff member looks towards where you are engrossed in looking at your phone!

    After a moment, you raise your head and speak.

    Leader: I’m sorry, (insert their name) - did you say something important?

    Staff member: I said that today you would be leading the assembly!

    You immediately become engrossed again in your phone. Eventually, you put it away and speak apologetically.

    Leader: Oh, sorry. How rude of me! I just wanted to read an email . . . so where was I . . . Ah yes, our assembly . . .

  2. Our assembly today will consider ‘phubbing’ and ‘presenteeism’.

    Show Slide 1.

    Has anyone ever heard of these phrases? 

    Phubbing is snubbing someone by looking at your phone.

    Show Slide 2.

    If you are in the middle of a conversation when the person you are talking to stops listening to you and starts looking at their phone to read a message or an email, you have been ‘phubbed'. They are no longer paying any attention to you because their attention has been diverted. 

    Ask the following questions.

    Has anyone ever been a victim of phubbing? 
    Has anyone ever phubbed someone else? 

  3. What about ‘presenteeism’? This is a term that originated in the world of business. It originally described people who were present at work even though they were ill, unable to focus or unable to perform any productive work. They were present, but in terms of what they achieved, they may as well have been absent.

    In recent years, presenteeism has come to describe employees who are present at work, but do not have their minds on the job because they are engrossed in social media or surfing the Internet for non-work-related information.

    Show Slide 3.

    Although these employees are present at work, their lack of focus and concentration mean that they may as well have been absent.

    Ask the following questions.

    Has anyone ever been guilty of presenteeism?
    Have any of you ever been present at your desk, with your coursework and homework spread out in front of you, but mentally you have been absent?

    Show Slide 4.

  4. So, are phubbing and presenteeism problems?
    A study in 2015 showed that those who work a long week of 55 hours or more in a job that involves little physical activity face a 33 per cent increased risk of stroke. The problem comes not from working harder, but from working longer. Much of the risk is associated with physical inactivity, and the study does not differentiate between a worker who is completing a report or spreadsheet and a worker who is liking Facebook pictures. The danger doesn’t lie in what you are sitting there doing. It lies in the fact that you are sitting there at all. The more time we waste being physically present at our desk, but mentally somewhere else, the more time we need to spend at our desks to get the work done. In this way, presenteeism could ultimately lead to increased health problems.

    So what about phubbing? A study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior showed that phubbing can damage your relationships and can also lead to depression and lower rates of overall life satisfaction.

    Ask the following question.

    How does phubbing affect the quality of our relationships? 

  5. In the Bible, the book of Isaiah tells us to be ‘steadfast of mind’. (Isaiah 26.3). Being steadfast of mind might mean deciding that, despite the temptation to check our phone, we choose to remain focused on the person we are presently with. We remain steadfast in listening to them, and we respond to them without distraction.

    Being steadfast of mind might also mean choosing a realistic and manageable amount of time during which we can be fully focused on our work, whether that is our revision, study or coursework. It could mean being steadfastly determined to avoid outside distractions that will only lead to us sitting for longer. It could also mean being steadfastly determined to take a healthy and relaxing rest after we have completed the realistic amount of work we set out to do.

  6. What can we learn about how Jesus related to people? We often read in the Gospels that, despite being surrounded by a noisy crowd where there were many distractions, Jesus took time to speak to individuals, giving them his full focus and attention. 

  7. Optional: ask a reader to read the Bible passage found in Mark 5.25–34.
    In this story, Jesus takes the time to stop and listen to a woman at a critical point in her life. As the passage is read, ask the students to imagine how Jesus might have looked into the eyes of the woman. Consider how Jesus was steadfast of mind in choosing to be present with her.

Time for reflection

Think about the people whom you will spend time with today. Can you choose to be ‘steadfast of mind’, choosing to give them your full attention to listen and share with them?

Pause for thought.

Consider the tasks that you have to do today. What temptations might take you away from being mentally present on those tasks? What could you choose to do to give yourself the best chance of getting the job done, with time for relaxation, friends and family?

Pause for thought.

Consider what we can learn from Jesus’ example. Do you want to be better at listening to others, despite the noise and distractions around you? Do you admire Jesus’ ability to do this?

Pause for thought.

Dear Lord,
There are many distractions in our noisy, busy society.
Please show us how to be more present to others - how to listen, how to look at others when they talk to us and how to respond. 
Please bless and strengthen the important relationships in our lives today.
lease keep us mindful of the important tasks we need to accomplish. Help us to work effectively so that we still have time to relax and spend time with loved ones. 
Bless both our work and our rest today, we pray.

Publication date: May 2016   (Vol.18 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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