Face-to-face conversation has returned to the Christian Brothers Academy cafeteria this school year as the Lincroft secondary school has banned the use of computers, tablets and smartphones during its lunch periods. In September, the administration announced the cafeteria would become a “device-free zone” in order to offer the students a break in the constant onslaught of electronic technology.
“More and more research has been coming out about reducing screen time for adolescents,” CBA principal Ross Fales said, explaining the motivation for the new policy for the 2018-2019 school year. “That, combined with a grassroots movement from our faculty who were worried about the unproductive use of computers in the cafeteria, led us to consider and ultimately put into action this new device-free zone.”
In the past, students were allowed to access their computers during their lunch periods for school work, playing video games, watching YouTube videos and surfing the web. This electronic immersion led to fewer live interactions which prompted the faculty to suggest the new policy, trying to foster interpersonal relationships. Computer school work is now reserved for the library, and students have begun to interact during lunch periods in the old fashioned way.
Matt Meehan, dean of students, noticed the change in atmosphere.
“It is like these guys are back in elementary school, just chatting with their buddies,” he said. “When you walk in the cafeteria now, it is totally engaging, rather than looking like a [coffee shop] where everyone is buried in their laptop.”
After an initial adjustment period, students grew accustomed to the electronics-free atmosphere and viewed it as a positive change.
“Coming back to CBA and getting used to the cafeteria being a device-free zone was certainly an adjustment that we found difficult to make,” junior Aedan Moran said. “After some time, I definitely found myself having enjoyable conversations with my friends and not staring at a screen during my lunch period. This [policy] has started to grow on us and we see the many benefits that it can have on the student body.”
“On a typical school day last year, everyone would eat their lunches and them go onto their computers to play games or listen to music,” remembered sophomore Blake Jaronko. “Although it was hard to adjust at first, CBA’s new system was a positive change. In our generation, technology is a major component of our lives, but this year, it is clear that more time is spent interacting with friends while in the cafeteria.”
CBA administrators are delighted with the changes and say they hearken back to a simpler, less technology-driven age.
“It’s very much like we have come full circle,” Fales said. “There was such a push over the past decade or so to get more technology into schools, [and] we are recognizing the moderation that the students need with these devices. The kids have to use interpersonal creativity to entertain themselves during their lunch period, which I think is a positive in all regards.”