How YHS Students Live Without An Excessive Use of Technology

Illustration: Dave Chrisom, Boston Children’s Hospital

Technology has become a huge part of our lives, much bigger than it was before. Due to COVID-19, we have had to adapt to living our lives through our computers. Whether it’s being a student and using Zoom for class or just being a family member trying to keep in touch with your loved ones, technology takes up most of our days. However, between all the hours of technology, there is still a small amount of time to take part in additional activities. We asked Yorktown High School students about their lives outside of technology, to elicit ways we all can join in on the fun off-screen. Our poll fielded responses from a diverse group of 89 YHS students.

Despite having to take part in school on the computer, only 12.4% of students say their computers are their most-used technology platform. 78.7% of respondents shared that their most-used technology is their cell phone. With the safety concerns surrounding usual hangouts with friends during this pandemic, it is likely students are using their cell phones more than pre-pandemic times to communicate with friends. When asked how much time they spend using technology (excluding school), 42.7% of students answered with 4-7 hours per day. This was followed by 28.1% of students sharing they spend the “majority of the day” using non-school related technology platforms. From this, we can conclude that students are still choosing to consume technology even when unrequired.

Our survey also asked YHS students about their lives unrelated to technology. Subjects were asked with whom they spend most of their time with and what they do. During a time like this, where it is unsafe to be with those who a person does not live with or does not socially distance themselves from, 52.8% of students chose, of course, their family members. 24.7% of students said “safely with their friends” (honorable mention to the student who was brave enough to say technology was their friend). After being on technology all day, sometimes the easiest and most relaxing thing to do is sit and talk with the people in front of you. For most, this is family. It’s an easy way to unwind. Given that 29.2% of students said they spend their time going out somewhere, where they go and what they do is important. A range of 21 different answers were given in response to this question. The most common answer at 31.7% was that people only spend time at their house . For people who do go out, 19.1% go to Panera Bread, 15.7% get a drink at Starbucks, 6.7% spend their time at Salsa Fresca, and 3.4% “only like to hang out at school”. Other written responses included people setting up socially distanced chairs with their friends and just talking, going to TJ MAXX, and walking around the Triangle Shopping Center, then to the track. 

YHS students were also asked about hobbies and activities. Since we’re all on the internet all day, it’s important that we get off our technology and have screen-less time to ourselves. This benefits both our mental and physical health. 42.7% of students say their favorite non-internet hobby is playing/watching sports. 18% listed drawing, 14.6% reading, and 4.5% improving their college applications. Other responses included coin collecting, music (playing instruments and singing), and fashion designing. Spending time outdoors is crucial. It’s important that we all go outside everyday, even if it is for one minute between classes. 44.9% of the respondents said their favorite outdoor activity is cautiously spending time with friends. 22.5% enjoy the satisfaction that comes along with finishing a good hike. Other answers included going to parks at 10.1%, bird watching at 2.2%, and various sports. Students were then given a theoretical situation asking what they would do on a day off from school (considering safety restrictions). Hanging out with friends was the most common answer at 39.3%. 20.2% of students chose to stay home, whereas 16.9% said they would go down to New York City. Some students (15.7%) said they would rather catch up on homework or get ahead in their studies. Other people said they would catch up on sleep, play sports, and spend time playing video games.

The last few questions that students were asked were much deeper. Firstly, a “yes” or “no” style question inquired whether having school online made students want to consume technology less. With a relatively small margin, 55.1% of students answered “yes”, while 44.9% said no. Some students’ desired amount of screen time has not been affected by online school, whereas others have decided they now want to put down their screens more. Lastly, students were asked about the effect of technology on their well being with “Do you think using technology throughout the day affects your health?” While 7.9% replied no, 2.2% said just their physical health, and 18% said just their mental health, it is noteworthy that 67.4% of all students answered with “yes”, technology has affected their health as a whole. Unfortunately, the vast majority of students are being affected by their incremental use of technology. It’s necessary for students to take a break from their screens occasionally (of course, not during class) and focus on their health. 

Along with brushing our teeth and eating three meals, consuming technology has become a part of our daily routines. As students, we are in a critical developmental growth period. We must learn to take care of ourselves and not spend all our free time on technology. Go on a hike, start a coin collection, or spend time with your family. Whatever it may be, we must stay healthy. COVID-19 has incorporated technology in our lives more so than ever before. However, we must take a break from our screens and enjoy the life around us.