Phone breaks?

Kliff Kingsbury, the new head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, revealed recently that he’s introduced “cell phone breaks” every 20-30 minutes during team meetings. Why? According to Kingsbury, “You start to see kind of hands twitching and legs shaking, and you know they need to get that social media fix, so we’ll let them hop over there and then get back in the meeting and refocus.”

Professor and study skills expert Cal Newport is also the author of Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. In his recent post responding to this story, Newport questioned the necessity of cell phone breaks, pointing out that the players somehow summon the strength to be without their phones during the entirety of each NFL game. His recommendation:

“Instead of accommodating his player’s twitching hands, therefore, perhaps Kingsbury should see this reaction as a crisis. Elite level sports require phenomenal concentration. Even a small epsilon degradation in this ability can be the difference between a cornerback disrupting a play or being burned on a slant, which itself can be the difference-maker in a game… Most coaches would never tolerate a habit that was clearly harming their players’ physical fitness, regardless of how popular it was in the general public. The same standards should hold for their players’ cognitive fitness.”

It’s easy to dismiss the ubiquity of cell phones as “just the way it is today.” But maybe we should encourage kids–and ourselves–to take fewer breaks to use our cell phones, and more breaks from using them.