EAST WENATCHEE — Eastmont students could find themselves spending more time talking to one another and less time on their cell phones and computers if Superintendent Garn Christensen has his way.
He is making a recommendation Monday that the school board pursue a policy discussion to reduce screen-based learning and limit use of personal digital devices during the school day.
“My concern is an observation that our young people are not getting the experiences they need in ‘soft communication’ and other non-verbal and interpersonal skills,” he said. “Since Windows launched in 1985, public education has believed that better technology results in better students and humans.”
At first glance, it looks that way, he said. Graduates at all levels of education have increased.
“Perhaps this is because of technology, though I believe it is more the result of better instruction, curriculum and strategies for helping diverse and disadvantages students,” he said.
Technology has come with a price.
“Escalating student anxiety, depression and suicide indicate major stress among our young people,” he said. “In prior decades, if peers thought a student had funny shoes, one of them eventually shared this with the person, or more often — to other students. Today, a student may learn others think his shoes are funny from an unkind emoji next to his name on social media, or even worse — adjacent to a photo of the offending shoes.”
The other downside is verbal, nonverbal and other interpersonal soft-type communication skills are in decline.
“We are learning technology leaders are restricting technology form their own children and voicing similar concerns,” he said. “Child psychologists and pediatricians are also issuing warnings regarding screen time and the need for increased human interaction with both peers and adults.”
Christensen believes the district should heed those warnings.
His recommendation will kick off discussion of updates to the district’s strategic plan this fall.
The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. at the district office, 800 Eastmont Ave. The board packet is available online at wwrld.us/2z6nJq8.