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School principal offers students $100 to stay off phones

Commentary: A Washington DC principal attempts to bribe students into getting a life.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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No selfies on a Tuesday? Which teen can do that?

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King Canute, they say, stood at the shore and commanded the waves to stop and turn back.

The waves weren't obedient.

Why, then, does Diana Smith think she'll be more successful? She's the principal of Washington Latin Public Charter School, and she's employing her own tactic to get her kids to put down the phones.

As the Washington Post reports, she's challenged her seventh- and eight-graders to stay off phones or any other screens every Tuesday until school resumes.

In return, she won't just shower them with admiration. She'll give them $100. 

How many students, though, would give up their regular Tuesday for a hundy? And what about the morality of bribery? 

"I don't like when teachers bribe their students with food, so I am breaking my own rules," Smith told the Post. "But I do think they need help with this particular relationship."

We all need help with this particular relationship. But can anyone stay off a screen for a whole day? And how, you'll be wondering, will the test be enforced? Well, it will take a letter from two adults over the age of 21 certifying that the kids stayed off their phones. 

Surely at least one kid will try and bribe a couple of adults with, say, a twenty each. And who's to know if the kids won't sneak their phones and iPads into their bedrooms, where no parent dares to tread? 

If she's wily, Smith will employ snoops to check whether the kids aren't surreptitiously posting in some dark corner of the web.

Washington Latin Public Charter School didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Smith, though, says she's already saved $600 to hand out to potential winners. She doesn't believe more than 50 will manage to stay off screens for 11 consecutive Tuesdays. Perhaps she knows her students well.

But when there's the smell of money in the air, you know that everyone will want their share. Apparently, parents have started betting each other which kids will succeed and which kids will fall by the digital wayside.

I fear corruption, leading to great cost to Smith. 

It would be instructive, though, to know which part of screen life kids will miss the most. Will it be the constant texting or the video-watching? Will it be the Snapchat or the Instagram? 

My bet -- hey, this is about the Benjamins, right? -- is that the kids won't be able to spend a single day without taking at least one selfie and posting it to some great social media site.

This is me suffering without my phone today. Oops!