New campaign aims to reduce technology use

Jan 14, 2014 | News

Photo by Alexis MacDonald

Photo by Alexis MacDonald

Students at a Seattle high school are being challenged this week to reduce their reliance on technology.

They’re being asked to take a three-day break from their digital devices as part of a campaign by the insurance company Foresters, in collaboration with two documentary filmmakers.

“Our goal is for everybody to find balance,” said Michael Stusser, one of the filmmakers. “We know nobody is giving up their device for good but it’s a little overboard.”

A study done at Northwestern University in Chicago last spring shows that 38 per cent of parents say that mobile devices have a negative effect on their children’s social skills. A 2010 study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that people between the ages of eight and 18 admit to being connected to some form of electronic media for eight to 12 hours per day. Foresters launched the Tech Timeout Academic Challenge to promote the idea of putting down devices and spending time with family.

“In the world we live in today we are always switched on,” said Teresa Pavlin, manager of PR and communications for Foresters. “Sometimes it’s easy to forget our devices don’t necessarily connect us. In order to connect as a family and to insure that we are interacting in a meaningful way we have to put down our devices.”

The idea for the timeout challenge came from Sleeping with Siri, a documentary based on an article written by Stusser for the Village Voice and Seattle weekly. In it, Stusser goes on a one week technology binge.

“In three days [during my technology binge] my blood pressure had shot up 40 points,” said Stusser. “I was a wreck. I was a twitchy, nervous mess.”

Stusser said he was over the top, but after talking to neurologists and doctors, he thinks the overuse of technology can have somewhat of a negative effect.

The academic challenge is just getting underway this week but the tech timeout was launched in February 2013.

Individuals and families can take the tech timeout pledge online.