DC students get paid $100 for putting their phones away

These students at a D.C. school are getting paid a $100 after vowing not to use their phones on Tuesday's during the summer.

WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9) - A couple months ago, WUSA9 brought you the story of an unusual challenge at one D.C. school. The principal at the Washington Latin Public Charter School offered her students $100, under one condition. These kids had to put their screens away every Tuesday all summer.

Now with summer over, WUSA9 gave the school a visit to see how it went, and just how much money she now owes.  

"The reality of this is definitely a little more painful than just saying I was going to do it," laughed Diana Smith, the principal. "But actually I'm thrilled."

Of the 160 students at the school, 73 attempted the challenge, and 38 succeeded. That means that Smith owes a whopping $3,800 to her students. She said the monetary sacrifice is worth the lesson it offers. 

"I did it because I'm genuinely concerned about the effects of phones on teenagers," she said. 

The screen addiction was realized by many of the kids, who said dropping the phone was the most difficult part. Now their sacrifice is being rewarded with cold hard cash. 

"I've been shopping to maybe buy some shoes," laughed Kofi McFadgion. 

Beyond the money, many of the students said they gained a greater appreciation for life beyond the screen. One student was bored without her phone, and turned to her grandmother's old library. It was there, that she found a book on criminology. Smith said that this girl now wants to be a criminologist. 

Another student, named Ketan Mampara, said he was on the Metro on one Tuesday, and saw riders glued to their phones. Since he didn't have one, he was forced to do something else. 

"I thought to myself," he said. "You realize you begin an inner-dialogue with yourself. In those moments that you would grab a phone, you can't, so you think."

Mampara added that navigation was a challenge without GPS. 

"I got lost," he laughed.

Catherine Sherman failed the challenge on the first week, because she wanted to take video of her brother's graduation. However, she still followed through with nine of the 11 Tuesdays without her phone. She said that the lesson was clear to her.

"I learned that I was on my phone too much," she said. "That it was good for me to have a break. And that I'm more productive when I don't have my phone with me."

Smith was offered donations from community members and businesses, who liked the challenge, however she turned it down, saying they should donate to the school instead. Next summer, she said she will accept donations from the community, since her payment is not sustainable. 

Despite the major loss of money, Smith was clear that she had "no regrets" about the challenge, although, she did have a caveat. 

"My only regret," she laughed. "Or my only worry is about next year."

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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