Three weeks without the internet improve the quality of sleep and life

Young people forego the media and the Internet in a project

Three weeks without the Internet and social media - what would initially trigger horror at many, seems to have significant positive consequences. Three groups of young people face this challenge as part of a Bavarian research project. After initial difficulties and a weaning phase, the adolescents showed positive reactions to the withdrawal. They report better sleep, more quality of life and great relief.

In the research project "Classroom under sail" of the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU), selected students of the tenth grade were on the three-masted "Thor Heyerdahl" for six months and were taught on the sailboat. In a three-week trip, the test subjects had to do without WiFi and social media entirely. How they reacted to the withdrawal was explained by Professor Dr. Thomas Eberle and Dr. Zinaida Adelhardt from the FAU Institute for Educational Sciences observed.

Life without YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter

"Social media play an enormous role in the everyday life of young people," the FAU experts report in a press release on the project. A survey by the International Central Institute for Youth and Educational TV shows that 97 percent of all young people in Germany have a smartphone. Almost everyone uses the Internet every day.

What motivations do young people have on the Internet?

According to the survey, the prevailing motivation to use the Internet is “having fun” (82 percent). The second most common statement that 80 percent of the respondents gave was "useful for everyday life". Other common motivations are "food for thought" and "information" with 79 percent each. “Having a say” also seems to play a crucial role for 78 percent of young people.

Classroom under sail

The FAU institute for educational sciences operates the "classroom under sail" as a separate research area. For ten years now, selected schoolchildren aged 14 and 15 have been able to exchange the classroom for a traditional sailboat and explore foreign countries and cultures up close. In exchange for this experience, they have to do without a lot of comfort and internet.

Research something else

The experiences from this project flow into educational research. Before, during and after the trip, the test subjects had to fill out standardized questionnaires and take part in interviews with the educationalists. Furthermore, the participants wrote short essays about their experiences.

Unusual, but very interesting

"The results are unusual and extremely interesting," reports overall project manager Professor Dr. Thomas Eberle. Previous studies have so far only examined very short offline times of a few hours or a day. In the project, on the other hand, there were offline times of up to three weeks, the expert said.

Reactions to the offline time

According to the educational researchers, the young people reacted very differently to the three-week offline phase. The reported experiences ranged from calmer sleep to more quality of life to less stress. "They even spoke of a great relief because they don't have to be online all the time," explains project manager Dr. Zinaida Adelhardt.

The fear of missing something

Some adolescents were excited about the rare shore leave, where they immediately logged on to the next WLAN to communicate via social media. In addition to the fear of missing something, the adolescents also said they felt a certain amount of pressure based on the expectations of parents, siblings and friends. "They felt that they had to get in touch as soon as possible," said the FAU scientists.

The opinion of the media changed within three weeks

Regardless of what the teenagers thought about going to social media, they became increasingly critical as the project progressed. "Within just three weeks of media isolation, the negative attitudes towards social media increased significantly among the students," summarize Eberle and Adelhardt. Six months later, the scientists are planning a follow-up examination to determine whether the effect is short-term or persistent. (vb)

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