The next time your kid complains about your draconian 30-minute iPad limit, try this one on them: there is a school in London where all internet, TV, smartphones, and other tech devices are banned until at least age 12. (Pause, wait for gasps.)
The charter of the Acorn School, founded in 2013, reads: “We are against all forms of electronics for small children … and only gradual integration towards it in adolescence. That includes the internet. In choosing this school, you have undertaken to support that view, no matter what you may feel personally.” Translation: no tech at home, on vacation, in cars or on planes.
Andrew Thorne, a founding director of the school, told the Telegraph:
The purpose [of the ban on technology] is to allow children space to grow. So instead of turning them into consumers of technology and television, they have to learn to create their own activities. It is about encouraging creativity so that the children are active creators rather than passive consumers.
To achieve this aspirational and seemingly inconceivable goal, there’s no television before the age of 12; after that, kids are only allowed to watch documentaries that have been approved by parents. Movies start at 14 and surfing the web is banned until age 16. Kids can use computers after 14, as part of the school curriculum. One can imagine a parent telling a child to look up “Google” in the dictionary. The bound one, on the bookshelf.
Parents are increasingly freaked out about how too-many screens are impacting their kids’ development. One MIT professor’s research shows technology is impairing kids’ ability to hold a conversation and build empathy. A study by the London School of Economics suggests that banning mobile phones at school is worth the equivalent of an extra week of classes in terms of students’ development. And the OECD recently released a report showing that increased investment in computers and technology at schools has not boosted academic results.
Enter the Acorn School, which focuses more on nature walks and woodworking than laptops and iPads, not to mention a partnership with parents that requires hyper-vigilance. “It’s a big ask for parents,” Kevin Burchell, a parent, told the Guardian. “But it’s worth it, because the results in terms of how the children are is very special.” Fees are £11,000 ($16,700) a year for the oldest students and there are currently 42 students enrolled up to the age of 14.
Some kids seem to have mixed feelings about the school’s no-tech approach. Edward, 14, has resorted to reading, voraciously, about computers:
I wasn’t really too bothered. Even if you don’t use the computer you can still read about it. You don’t get as much as if you actually use the computer but it still helps.