A leading private school in the United Kingdom is sending its students on a week-long trip without smartphones after finding out they were more comfortable “contacting each other via WhatsApp than talking face to face.”
“Sixth-formers from Roedean will spend a week at a country house to practice interacting face-to-face,” Daily Mail reported.
The £38,000 or over Rs. 33 lakh -a-year Brighton boarding school said the retreat has “lots of fresh air and no wi-fi”, in order to prevent the girls from messaging each other on WhatsApp or like photos on Instagram.
“The move comes after the headmaster, Oliver Blond, realized that some pupils received a lot of their information about friends from social media,” according to Daily Mail.
The students will be set “team tasks and encouraged to make eye contact, read facial expressions and play board games.”
The headmaster said that, during a chat with pupils, he was surprised to find out one girl did not know which city her friend lived in even though they had been friends for more than a year.
“Teenagers can seem so connected but at the same time rather isolated,” he told the Sunday Times.
Gemma Hannan, who is the director of the sixth form, said the idea of a retreat came after teachers noticed the girls’ friendships were mostly conducted online.
“We find them WhatsApping each other even when they are in the same class. They feel comfier contacting each other via WhatsApp than talking face to face,” she said.
Blond said the retreat was not just for “eye contact and board games – but to develop critical thinking, discussion and debate, without the distraction of technology.”
Student Ellie Flavin, 17, said even when “we walk with a friend down a corridor, they have their phones out.”
“Social media offers virtual friendships. I will see them on Instagram and follow them, but I have never had a face-to-face chat with them,” she said.