Take an iBreak

Productive, technology free ways students can spend their free time.

I took a poll of fifty high school students, asking them how they typically spent their free time. The options were: getting on social media/watching tv, Netflix, etc, exercise/sports practice, and reading/arts (painting, drawing, coloring, etc).

Of these options, 32 students chose the technological option, 11 chose the athletic option, and 7 chose reading/arts. 

Senior Taylor Albrecht falls into the latter two categories. 

“Practice is the best thing for me and doing artsy things that distract myself,” Albrecht elaborates said.

However, like the 31 other students who chose the most popular option, junior Lola Campbell finds a quick escape in technology.

 “When I have free time I usually watch TV or scroll through Tik Tok,” Campbell said.

Today’s technology provides the 62 percent of students I interviewed who opted for a tech break, with instant, easy access to entertainment and distraction. 

On average, teens in the US spend seven hours a day immersed in the world of technology, not including time spent on homework. Prolonged amounts of time spent in front of a screen has brought attention to the many negative impacts it has on adolescents. 

Technology can be pinpointed as the reason for declines in mental health, troublesome sleep patterns, and the increase in symptoms of depression amongst students. Spending time online will also cause students to become exceedingly isolated from human interaction. 

As a result of these side effects influenced by technology, students should change their habits by choosing to disconnect from the cyber world and reconnect with the real world instead of instinctively picking up their phones, surfing tv channels, or browsing the internet.

There is an immense number of ways in which students can utilize their free time productively. Some of these are as simple as going for a walk. A New York University study of 128 11th graders discovered 49 percent of these students feel an immense amount of daily stress, and 31 percent feel somewhat stressed.

Connecting with nature has been proven to lower stress levels, decrease symptoms of depression, and enhance an individual’s mental well-being. Taking a daily walk would not only provide students with the opportunity to breathe fresh air after spending an average of 6.69 hours a day inside a school building, but it could also lead to a decrease in reported stress levels. 

Going on a walk and spending time in nature is an excellent way to spend free time; but what happens if it’s raining? Or your allergies are especially bad that day? Artistic creativity is another mind-stimulating way to fill up your downtime. 

Creativity can be expressed in a number of ways. This includes, but is not limited to, painting, drawing, photography, and music. 

Each of these forms of expression is not only productive, but they also have health benefits. Painting and drawing promote the development of problem-solving skills through unexpected outcomes and the need for color limitation during the artistic process. Using a paintbrush and pencil when developing an artwork, strengthens the mobility of an individual’s hands and fingers.

Photography enables the enhancement of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the absorption of one’s surrounding environment and the attentiveness towards the seven senses. Mindfulness is said to reduce stress and increase focus.

Learning a musical instrument has many benefits in favor of brain productivity. It fosters the flow of blood to the left hemisphere of the brain, which can provide increased energy. Musicality incorporates the use of both cognitive and neural systems, strengthening both memory and reading abilities. Music can also be used as a stress and anxiety reducer. 

Not everyone has the ability to access a musical instrument. If this is the case, cooking is an alternative hobby to the instant resort to technology. Like the previous solutions, cooking can be a stress reliever. 

The preparation of a meal requires a person’s full attention, allowing them to put aside daily stressors. Making a successful meal provides an individual with a sense of confidence and achievement, allowing for cooking to encourage the growth of self-esteem. 

A good meal is not only a reward to your taste buds, but it also benefits others if shared. Cooking brings people together, contradictory to the isolation brought on by becoming engulfed by the wonders of the tech world.

The advancement of today’s technology is an impressive resource that, when utilized appropriately, has many benefits. However, becoming swallowed by the wonders of these creations will only lead to personal downfall. 

It is important to remember to take an iBreak. To return back to reality. This can be done in simple ways such as an outside stroll, or in more mind challenging ways like picking up an instrument or making a snack.

Next time you feel like scrolling through Instagram, responding to a Snapchat, or finding your next binge-worthy tv show, consider choosing a more productive way to utilize the 24-hours in a day. Play a board game. Clean a messy room. Read a book. Call a friend instead of texting. These alternatives will not only bring you back to the present, they will also fuel your mind and lead to an increase in overall happiness.