No-Tech Challenge

History of the No-Tech Summer Challenge

At last year’s 7-8th grade Valediction, I challenged the 160 students to commit to NO screen time of any kind for each of the 11 Tuesdays this summer break, from June 13 through August 22. With each No-Tech-Tuesday, students experienced life without the ever-present screen so integral to our modern life.

The response to this Challenge was wonderful. Many students, both in these designated grades and beyond, took on the Challenge. Some parents did too, and it was interesting to hear how many adults have said either they could not do it or didn’t even want to try. I received reflections from students who said it was especially hard in the beginning, but many also said it was ultimately liberating. I am most delighted to hear that students came to understand the power of habit and especially their ability to CHANGE their habits, if they choose. This knowledge will serve them well, in managing technology and many other aspects of life.

We knew we wanted to do it again, so I gathered students who made it through last summer’s challenge and asked them what to do this year. They want to be involved, and they encouraged us to think about how to reach more students, maybe by offering some days of organized no-tech fun for participants this summer. They also said they were interested in getting PARENTS involved. So we’ve reworked the Challenge, as you can read below. I look forward to seeing the results of this Challenge.

Diana Smith, Principal

The Rules of the Challenge

Washington Latin will award $100 to all teams of one student and at least one parent who successfully meet the Challenge as outlined below. The students must be 8-9th grade students and enrolled at Latin for 2018-19.

WHEN: From 12:00 am  to 11:59 pm each SATURDAY, June 9 through August 18, 2018 or each SUNDAY, June 10 through August 19, 2018.

WHAT: No screens, including but not limited to – computers, TV, movies (in theatre or on a device), Kindles, iPads, iPods, iPhones, other smart phones, video game consoles (Wii, Play Station, XBox, Nintendo Switch), hand-held video games (on your phone, iPod, Kindle, iPad, Apple Watch, Gameboy, Nintendo DS, Atari, PSVita, etc.), and any others we have not named but that are out there and in use – this list is a sampling, not a definitive list. Bottom line: no screens!

SIGN UP: Use the button to tell us that you are accepting the challenge.

WHY: The idea is for you to discipline yourself. It is like fasting (no food or drink for a period of time) in order to feel and understand what happens to your life when you go without. Live without the screens for a day a week and see what happens. Even better if you challenge the adults in your household to do the same!

HOW: Stay off screens for each Saturday or Sunday (24-hours) and make sure you have two adults who will attest that you did so. Their testimony must be in writing and delivered to me by August 27, 2018. Each student needs to assume responsibility for figuring out the challenges posed by not having access to screens for 24 hours. For example, if your friends invite you to the movies on your designated day, you need to take a rain check. If you need directions, find a map, and so on.

EXCEPTIONS: Our Challenge participants may use their phones ONLY for making or receiving calls. Take a picture with your phone? Nope, that knocks you out. Look at your email on your phone? Also not allowed. Simply put, no screens.

WRITE IT: First, we ask that you keep notes or journal about what you do each week without screens. At the end of the summer, no later than August 27, 2018, have two adults each send a letter to us confirming that they know, with certainty, that you had no screen time on any of the 11 days you have selected (Saturday or Sunday). You will also be asked to write an essay (1-2 pages) about the experience and turn it in with the letters of attestation. We ask that parents taking the challenge do the same, but we don’t require it.

Resources & Reading


There are numerous resources on this page, including phone contracts, a blog on managing technology, parenting apps, research, and more. Visit now, visit again later – their content is regularly updated.

Atlantic Magazine

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” The Atlantic Magazine, September 2017

More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.

Melinda Gates on Kids and Technology

“Melinda Gates: I spent my career in technology. I wasn’t prepared for its effect on my kids,” Washington Post, August 24, 2017

Phone apps aren’t good or bad in themselves, but they can exacerbate the difficulties of growing up.

New Kind of Social Anxiety

“A New Kind of Social Anxiety in the Classroom,” The Atlantic Magazine, January 2015

Kids who constantly use phones and computers tend to be more nervous in face-to-face conversation.

Studying With Your Smart Phone?

Studying With Your Smartphone? That’s Not So Smart, Washington Monthly, August 2017

The mere presence of your smartphone reduces brain power, a recent study shows.