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Opinion & Editorial

The Phone “Home Alone” Challenge by Peggy Sutton

This feature’s contributor is posted on our Faculty and Staff column.(Courtesy/Peggy Sutton)

Unless you are a movie buff, you may not remember the 1990 film Home Alone, now with sequels released through 2002. In the earliest version, the family of eight-year-old Kevin accidentally abandons him at home while they head off on vacation. The youngster fends off burglars and saves his neighborhood and self, all while his family panics as they try to figure out how to return to him. 

I don’t generally feel out of step with current-day events and technologies, and I am not prone to nostalgia. I have kept up to date with changes in technology, which I use regularly. 

On Presidents’ Day weekend, though, I did long for the past. 

The long weekend started with a professional development session on “Positive Psychology,” where we learned concrete ways to reframe our thinking to be more optimistic and grateful, which could in turn affect our outlook and mental health. We used a second session to understand better how to create a greater sense of “belonging.”

Upper School Counselor Suzanne Ritter and Lower School music/movement/drama teacher Michelle Schroeder-Lowrey led both sessions. According to research they shared, “Social isolation is the cause of most of the problems that we all face.” If we cheat, they said, it is out of fear of being perceived as stupid; if we bully, it is to belong. 

One significant cause of our isolation, no surprise, is the increasing use of technology–both for the simplicity it offers people who would like to insult and the chance it gives people to express emotions without facing an audience. 

We all had a chance to practice “belonging” as we split into groups to play or work out together. People played volleyball; others did yoga or water aerobics; some meditated; Mr. Simpson and I ran. It was a great chance to celebrate the opening of the new CA Health Center and practice the healthy practices that we had discussed that morning.

I again had a chance to reflect on what I learned later on Monday, when I used my Presidents’ Day reprieve to go on a run. As I jogged by Capital University and saw students walking the campus, everyone had a cell phone. Heads down, looking at their screens, no one said, “Hi” as I passed even though I said so myself. 

Capital is not alone. At Academy in the morning, halls are full of people staring at screens. Kids in the middle school must put their phones away, but not so in the upper school. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not above this phone-loving habit. I read books on my phone, communicate with friends and family on it, and do The New York Times crossword puzzle regularly. 

Still, I can see the problem, and given what I heard at our professional development session, I understand the results. At my age, though, I have witnessed better days. So, I have an idea.

What if we return to the past for a day and start a trend, a “Leave Your Phone Home Alone for a Day” trend? Just as Kevin in Home Alone was fine, and even great, when abandoned to his own resources, perhaps our phones will be, too. We could name a day and agree to leave our phones at home–not in the car, not in a locker, not  in our coats, but at home. 

We could add to the challenge: What if we pledged to look at least three people in the eye and greeted those people on that day? What if we pledged to do that with everyone we passed that day? If we were in New York City, that might be difficult (I’ve tried it), but at Columbus Academy and in our city, it might work. 

Yes, the phone companies might lose some activity, and our out-of-town pals might miss our contact for eight to ten hours, but we could do this, and we could start a movement. Maybe it could grow to a day a month, or we could add a national Call Instead of Texting Day, but Leave Your Phone Home Alone is a start. Let’s be trendsetters and do it, for the benefit of us all. 


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