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Catherine Price talks "breaking up with your phone"
Posted 02/28/2020 03:48PM

Catherine Price starts most of her talks by doing what she calls an “invitation, experiment and challenge.” She asks everyone to take out their cell phones and look at their home screen, see what notifications are there and then tells them to turn off their phones. Not just silencing or turning on airplane mode, but completely shutting down their phone.

At both the student assembly and the Community Speaker Series events on February 20, where Price was the guest speaker, students, faculty, staff and parents sheepishly took out their phones, took one last look and put them away.

The Fathers Club and Parents Association invited Price to share her insights with Prep parents at the Community Speaker Series, and she also spent an hour talking with students during Community Block about what makes our phones so addicting and why they affect our sleep, relationships, memory and productivity. She provided advice and tools for anyone who still wants to enjoy their phones while living more meaningful lives.

“We have not had a conversation yet about when it’s appropriate or inappropriate to have out your phone,” Price said. “Can you remember the last time you put it away or shut it down?”

While it may seem like a simple task, for many audience members, turning off the phone or even leaving it in another room can cause a slight panic. Price spent five years researching this anxiety, dependence and attachment to our phones. The result is the New York Times-bestseller How to Break Up with Your Phone.

Price broke down her talk into three sections that answered three questions: What are we so attached to our phones? What is this doing to us? How do we take back control?

Mobile app interfaces and icons are designed to be eye-catching and distracting, triggering a physiological response in the dopamine pathways in the brain. Price listed all the dopamine triggers, including novelty, social affirmation and unpredictability—all of which a phone, or endless scrolling on Instagram, can provide.

With a predilection for distraction and increased dopamine, the brain wants you to keep checking your phone to see what’s new and get a dopamine boost. The fear of missing out (FOMO) triggers anxiety, which releases the stress hormone, cortisol. Distracted and stressed minds experience reduced attention span, productivity loss, disrupted sleep and even decreased creativity.

Price emphasized to students and parents that they can take back control of their brains with a few simple solutions. Put phones away at meals. Carve out what she calls “unicorn time” to do activities “that make you interested and interesting.” Turn off notifications and create no-phone zones.

All these suggestions can lead to more balanced lives where we still appreciate all that our phones provide us with – new knowledge, connections to family and friends a state, country or ocean away – while also finding joy in everyday activities IRL.

Flintridge Preparatory School
4543 Crown Avenue La Cañada Flintridge CA 91011
Tel: 818-790-1178
Fax: 818-952-6247
Located near Pasadena and Los Angeles in La Cañada, CA, Flintridge Prep is a private independent, coed day school for grades 7-12.
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