25 Mar

Sixth Class took part in the ESB Science Blast competition recently.  The pupils were delighted to be choosen for the competition and thrilled to travel to the RDS in Dublin for the event. In support of their efforts the Board of Management kindly sponsored the bus to the event.  For the month of February the pupils agreed to a digital detox from Sunday night to Friday evening.  Most of the Fifth Class pupils agreed to take part too.   Below is information on the project, the feedback from the judges, a photograph of the presentation of the project and the trophy the pupils received for taking part.

Why did we Choose this Project?


There are many different opinions as to the effect that screen time is having on children. We found studies that suggest it can greatly reduce the sleep quality of children, especially if devices are used within an hour of bed time.  But we also found a recent study that suggested that due to it being a “normal” part of children’s daily routine that screen time now has little or no effect on children’s sleep patterns. We decided to do our own study to see which side of the argument was more accurate.

See article links below:

-How blue light affects sleep-

– BBC Article on low impact of screen time-


How did we Conduct the Study?


  • Both the children involved (5th and 6th Class) and their parents were surveyed about their use of devices, sleep patterns and general well-being. Details of the survey can be seen below.
  • The children committed to staying off all devices with internet access from bedtime Sunday until after school Friday each week throughout February.
  • Parents paid closer attention to the children’s sleep patterns throughout the experiment and the children maintained a sleep diary.
  • All children and parents were surveyed once more at the end of the experiment.
  • The children undertook study into the science behind sleep, the sleep cycles and the significance of dreams, nightmares etc.

Key Findings (Pre- detox)

  • Only 7% of parents estimated their children’s screen time at more than 3 hours but 41% of children admitted to having more 3 hours.
  • 4% of children in 5th and 6th Class have smartphones.
  • 70% use tablets with internet access and 66% use games consoles with internet access.
  • Only 3% of children surveyed have no social media account.
  • All children in 6th class have a Snapchat account despite some having no phones of their own.
  • 16% of children reported feeling in danger at some point due to activity or experiences online.
  • Approximately 32% of children reported taking an hour or more to get to sleep after bed time, perhaps significantly just over 30% also reported having screens in bed either most of the time or all of the time.
  • 58% of parents are using filters, passwords or parental controls on devices which children can access.


  • Here is how parents rated the children’s sleep quality prior to the detox (5 being the best):
  • Just over 50% of parents felt online activity affected their children’s emotional wellbeing either occasionally or regularly.

Interesting Comments by Parents:

  • I think they are poorer at interacting on a face to face basis as they always chat through their phone.
  • The inability to monitor Snapchat is a concern
  • I’m concerned by content popping up on screen that they cannot process or that may be inappropriate. Also there’s peer pressure from others to be part of groups or indeed to own a phone which our child does not.
  • Wasting too much time on it/pressure to have an iphone and the cost of one/the pressure to have a perfect image and presence on social networks.
  • Can get short tempered after long use and totally oblivious to external environment when using!
  • Can mindlessly spend time on ipod instead of engaging with people present in the room or on a more sociable activity.

Key Findings (Post detox):

  • 38% of children found the detox easier than they expected, only 24% found it harder than they expected.
  • Almost 71% reported having more time for outdoor play, 44% played more with siblings and 45% read more during the detox.
  • 96% of the parents who responded felt the detox was a worthwhile exercise.
  • 75% reported that their children were better without their devices.
  • 90% felt that their children engaged better socially during the detox.
  • 67% of parents felt the experiment improved their child’s sleep pattern.
  • 96% of parents responding felt they will make permanent changes to their children’s access to devices after the experiment.

Some Comments from Children after the Experiment:

  • I found other things to do.
  • I could start reading more again.
  • That I wasn’t constantly on my phone.
  • I got a lot more done.
  • More time doing things that I wouldn’t have done before.
  • It will teach me that I can live without my device.
  • You feel like you have no burdens.
  • I got much more exercise by going outside more often than I used to.
  • Went outside a lot more and there was more to your day than just playing on your phone.
  • I wasn’t sleepy going into school or in the morning.
  • I got better sleep.


Some Comments from Parents after the Experiment:

  • The have to use their imagination. My 7 year old son set up an imaginary garage. Taking phone calls and writing messages…couldn’t wait to come home from school to work in his garage.
  • They got outside more. Talked more. Interacted with each other more. Weekly chores were not so hard to get done.
  • Daughter spent more time outdoors; went to sleep earlier; read more; possibly watched slightly more TV. I also tried to reduce the time wasted on my phone as I felt it wasn’t fair to be active when my child was not.
  • It demonstrated that life would carry on regardless. Wouldn’t be a big user of social media previously but it showed that the will power it took to stay away from it was worth it and that nobody would lose friends in real life as a result of not being on social media.
  • More time was spent with the family, more interaction and it was reminder to him of the fun he can have outside of gaming and looking at a tablet. He had to make an effort to entertain himself and search out things he used do before devices. It was a reminder that there is life outside devices.
  • Less tired as went to bed earlier, more exercise as played out more, interacted more with family, wanted to visit extended family more.
  • Not wanting to be in her bedroom as much.
  • Open communication, more organised, took ownership of herself instead of relying on others to have things ready for, enthusiastic to get involved in outdoor activities.
  • A happier child and more helpful around the house and read more of her books.
  • More outside play and other family members used them a lot less.
  • They interacted more and it was easier for them to go to sleep at night time.





Feedback from Judges


The project idea was very topical and an important issue to investigate in the students lives.  It was clear that it had a positive impact on not only their lives but on the entire school community.  The class had multiple sources of data (survey, sleep journals) etc.  There was a good balance between quantities and qualitive data and graphs and calculating percentages.  The display was well-organised and everyone was involved in preparing it.  The students spoke about carrying out research at home and discussed how it was important to find reliable websites.  The students were very confident when presenting their project and had a great deal of knowledge/ideas about why they had gotten the results that they did.  What we really loved about the project was that the students were able to use the results to improve their own lives.  The class teacher worked very well with the class and has really inspired them!




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