Deborah Ferguson, NBC 5 News
Several students at Trimble Tech High School in Fort Worth are taking the Shut It Down Challenge to turn off their cell phones for an hour a day.
Students at Trimble Tech High School in Fort Worth pledged to do something that might seem impossible: shut down their cellphones for part of the day.
Senior Natalia Carroll considers it a life line.
"Getting into each other's business and getting in touch with the school. That's how we learn what's going on," she said. "Twitter. Instagram. Facebook. There's a lot of you can do, even do your homework."
Yet she admits a lot of time is wasted, too, goofing off.
The idea to take a break from the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week technology came after a conversation with a researcher at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.
"If folks perceive the constant barrage of cellphone calls, text messages, pager beeps and emails as inconvenient interruptions, then they may be likely to become stressed out and irritated. The more irritated you become, the more cortisol is released. The more cortisol is released, the higher the likelihood that the irritability will escalate to anger. If this cycle continues, you have a higher-than-average risk of developing health problems," said Vicki Nejtek, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral health. "To protect your mind and body, you need downtime."
That conversation lead to the Shut It Down Challenge. Students shut down their cellphones Monday and will keep it off an hour per day until Dec. 19.
Senior Jasmine Torbor understood perfectly the connection between her phone and higher stress level.
"I'm a senior and we're sending out college applications. I'm constantly checking emails to see if a colleges have accepted me, and it's causing stress. I can't sleep," Torbor said.
Yet there's been barely any stress from being without a phone for an hour a day. The students are using that time on school work or family.
"I'm reading 'Catcher in the Rye,'" said freshman Bauston Culton. "I'm a good writer but with texting and TV, it's effecting my writing. I'm using slang words. So, reading improves my writing."
"This is a good way to talk to our families. I found out my dad is pretty cool. I talked to them about things I never talked about. They know everything, and I know everything about what's going on," said Junior Kirston Royal.
"I help my family, clean the house, other things I don't do that often," said freshman Jasmine Watson. "I learned I can communicate better with other people without the phone to see how my friends and family are doing."
Family bonds are strengthening and so is the feeling of community on Tech's campus.
"When you put down your phones and talk to each other, be friends, you have more school spirit because you communicate with each other and be together," said sophomore Andrew Vu.
"If they just talk to someone, it'll be okay. and that's a way of breaking out school spirit," said Royal.
The challenge to shut it down may turn out to be the best lesson of the year.