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I write to commend a book to you which has huge relevance to the Wellbeing of this and future generations of young people. Stolen Focus by Yohan Harri describes the growing range of societal influences which are robbing us of our ability to focus effectively. 

Of course, social media is the chief culprit and many apps and social platforms are now specifically designed to grab and hold on to our attention. The longer they have our attention, the more money their businesses are likely to make. 

The book describes two compounding forces at play:

  1. The Gradual Acceleration – of the speed of life and the increase in the amount we are expected to do each day. 
  2. The Gradual Deprivation – of sleep time through acceleration factors AND the impact of social media upon sleep quality. In an eye-opening interview the CEO of Netflix was quoted as saying “we compete with sleep, and we’re winning!” 

However, social media is just one of many influences which are negatively impacting our ability to focus and concentrate. Harri also discusses how the absence of free play, declining food quality and environmental pollution may also be having detrimental effects.  

This is a book that every teacher and parent should read and one that has enormous implications for schools and families. If the young people we are trying to teach have significantly impaired focus and concentration, how will the teaching profession acknowledge and adapt to that? How can parents guide and counsel their children, in the face of these ever-growing forces of distraction.  

Thankfully, the book and the future it presents, is not all doom and gloom. Harri suggests a number of potential coping strategies and possible long-term solutions to the problems we currently face, to give some hope to teachers, parents and society as a whole. But we must act soon! 

Here is a one page pdf summary of the book and a link to a youtube summary video, which I am currently using in Wellbeing lessons and year level talks. 


Wellbeing Check-ins

We are currently trialling a Wellbeing Check-in App (Bloum) with Hawkes, Young and Woodcock Houses. There are a number of similar apps available now but this one is the specifically tailored for wellbeing in schools. During once-per-week mentor group check-ins, students will give feedback on their general mood state and answer questions about six wellbeing domains. Over the next few weeks, we will gather data for each domain and begin to respond to any emerging trends. Mentors will initiate wellbeing conversations with any students who have reported ongoing negative scores and, at any time, students can request a wellbeing conversation with a member of staff (teacher or counsellor). We are excited about the potential of this resource. If it is able to provide us with meaningful ongoing data about our students’ wellbeing, it will represent another significant development for our Wellbeing Programs at St Peter’s College. 

By coincidence, this week’s special report on SchoolTV is on “Mobile Phone Separation Anxiety” which connects perfectly with the key messages of ‘Stolen Focus

Special Report: Mobile Phone Separation Anxiety

The use of mobile phones and technology in schools has been a highly debated topic internationally, including in Australia. Almost all states and territories in Australia, have implemented full bans on mobile phones during class, recess, and lunch times, while allowing students to carry their phones during travel to and from school.

Critics argue that there is no evidence supporting the effectiveness of such bans, but this is a mischaracterisation. Studies have shown the positive impacts of mobile phone bans in schools. One study conducted in 2016, found that banning mobile phones led to an increase in student performance, with test scores improving by 6.4% of a standard deviation. Similar studies from Spain and Norway also supported these findings.

For parents concerned about mobile phone separation anxiety in their children, it is important to acknowledge it as a real issue and discuss the negative effects of phone addiction, such as sleep problems and mental health issues. Gradually introducing phone-free periods at home, setting clear expectations and boundaries and modelling healthy behaviours can help your child cope. It is also crucial to establish a support network and seek professional help if needed. Implementing mobile phone bans in schools allows for better focus on teaching and learning, minimising distractions and interruptions.

This Special Report will help address mobile phone separation anxiety and provide guidance on supporting your child’s wellbeing during this transition period. We hope you take a moment to reflect on the information offered, and as always, we welcome your feedback. If this raises any concerns for you, a loved one or the wellbeing of your child, please consider seeking medical or professional help.

Click here to view the Special Report.

Sean Inman
Head of Wellbeing Programs