A Device-Free Lunchroom

Mailynn Nguyen, Writer

Close your eyes and visualize the TJMS lunchroom. Students, glued to their seats, distractedly shoving food into their mouths as they stare at flat black rectangles that shine an eerie, light onto their faces.

Rather disheartening, I know.

But this is the reality–the reality we’ve manufactured for our future, and though it may seem unlikely, there is indeed a way for our society as a whole to wean itself from its addiction to electronic devices. A first step to becoming a more technology-balanced and mindful society is for schools to prohibit the use of electronic devices in lunchrooms. Students today need a place that is free of devices. The lunchroom should be a place for socialization, not for staring at iPads. Additionally, multiple studies have been conducted that highlight the concerning mental and physical effects of devices on our bodies and brains, specifically that of children and adolescents.

The primary reason for the need to remove electronics from school cafeterias is to create a space where students are encouraged to engage in real, face to face social interaction. According to an article found on Newsela, students at a school where phones (which were previously used at this school) were removed reported a significant increase in social interactions after phones were prohibited, which made them “socially… improved.” The prohibition of phones in this school also led to a decrease in referrals for “defiance and disrespect,” and students were more focused in class. (Teenage hangups: The drastic plans to keep high schoolers off their phones, Newsela.) If schools want to see an increase in student interaction and a decrease in referrals, I believe that it is imperative that we remove devices from the lunchroom.

Too much use of electronic devices causes numerous negative effects on students’ brains. In another article retrieve from Newsela, it is said that excessive use of devices caused a “feeling of addiction” for people, especially for students because of their developing brains. Additionally, according to an article on C-NET, getting addicted to devices is more likely to happen when a person is eating and using devices because of the rush of “happy hormones” that are released when the two are done together. Eating distractedly can also lead to overeating, says the C-NET article. It’s better for us, and for students, to focus on one thing at a time. (Why you shouldn’t scroll through your phone while eating. Retrieved January 21, 2020, from C-NET .)

Studies have been conducted on the effect of the use of electronics on humans’ bodies. Research shows that time staring at screens can lead to damage to one’s vision and time bending over to look at a device can lead to damage to the neck and shoulders. For both a screen addict’s eyes and neck, surgery may be needed to correct damage done by too much time on phones and other electronic devices. Therefore, to decrease the use of students’ screen time and therefore improve students’ physical health, devices should not be permitted in the lunchroom. (Is too much electronic use bad for your health, Health Point and Text neck: How smartphones are damaging our spines, The Guardian.)

Ms. Boggan, the principal of Thomas Jefferson Middle School, tells Jefferson students that their use of iPads in the cafeteria is a privilege, but I believe that this is a loss of interactions between students. Our lunch periods provide an opportunity for us to socialize while we eat. So, let’s socialize and eat, not look at devices! Some students say that lunch can be a time to study and do schoolwork, which, students argue, requires the use of devices. Banning iPads during lunch would end this opportunity. However, I argue that, yes, it is a good idea to do homework during lunch, but is there not any paper homework you can work on? There must be… and if there isn’t, talk to your friends.