Since she started teaching at the school 11 years ago, Ms Barbat said the girls seemed more stressed, more dependent on social media and more concerned about what others thought.
“It was about getting away from social media, and creating moments … without living their lives through everyone else.”
Although it was voluntary, nearly 80 per cent of high school girls participated in the first Look Up session last month. Not a screen was seen.
“We are all so absorbed in our phones, and this was about living in the moment,” said Izzy de Laine, 17, a year 11student.
“It was the most fun we’ve had at school,” said her friend Rachael Tindall, 16.
Parents wrote to the school saying how energised and happy their daughters were after the lunchtime of unstructured fun.
In Melbourne, Dina Mueller, a former senior software engineer with SAP in Silicon Valley, has asked her son’s school to reduce its reliance on computers. Along with other parents at the school, who have complained with her, she claims the switch from print to online textbooks and the compulsory use of an iPad has slowed her year 8 son’s progress, and caused his writing and grammar to deteriorate.
When people find out that she and her husband, also an IT specialist, have put the television and PlayStation away, and insist their four sons either play cards inside or play outside, they are treated with some amazement.
“If I can see my children becoming a victim of technology, and dying in front of my eyes, I am going to become a dinosaur, and I am going to fight it,” Mrs Mueller said. She became a senior software developer although she hadn’t even touched a computer until she attended university, she says.
In a memoir released last week, activist and author Joseph Wakim writes about how his three normal teenager daughters were replaced by zombies as they fell under the grip of “His Majesty the television” and other screens.
“I counted seven screens switched on for only three people. They were not teenagers, they were screenagers. And they, apparently, were normal, while I, apparently, was … old,” he writes in What My Daughters Taught Me, a memoir of raising his daughters after his wife died of breast cancer in 2003.
When his family had dinner at a restaurant or at home, he insisted on making it a “free [of] Wi-Fi zone” instead of free Wi-Fi.
“Phones are off the table, and can’t be used,” he said. “The most important people are with you. This is precious and sacred family time, when you can have a digital detox and give each other undivided attention.”
William, who lives in Dalyston, Victoria, was inspired by Mr Wakim, a family friend.
William said he had been told screen time was good for him because he is dyslexic. But he found screens and online games blunted his imagination, and sapped his power and energy.
Like most teenagers, though, William admits to finding it hard to put down the devices and kick the habit.