The local band The Oshima Brothers performed at Lincoln Academy in support of the student-initiated Cell-Phone-Free Challenge, which takes place April 29-May 2.

The local indie rock duo the Oshima Brothers visited Lincoln Academy on Friday, April 26 to help promote the “Smart-Phone-Free Challenge,” a student-driven three-day challenge to encourage students and faculty to break their cell phone addiction.

Ezra Smith, an LA senior from Alna, organized the Challenge event, and he used statistics from the Pew Research Center to motivate student participation. “45% of teens use their phones ‘almost constantly,’ a habit that has been correlated with increased rates of diabetes, obesity, cancer, depression, and even suicide,” he told students during Friday Assembly. In addition, teen smartphone use was 37% in 2013, versus 95% in 2018 (157% increase); teen depression rate has increased by 63% between 2013 and 2018; and teen suicide rate as gone up by 31% between 2013 and 2018. Also, Maine has the highest rate of diagnosed anxiety/depression for teenagers in the entire US.

Smith then laid down the challenge, which involves leaving cell phones in a locked box in the school office for three days. Participants are entered in a drawing to win $100 in cash.

Smith chose the Oshima Brothers to help promote the Challenge because they are young, local (they grew up in Whitefield and now live in Belfast), and beginning a successful career in the music industry. They have written a song called “Online” about about cellphone use, particularly its negative impact on relationships, which they performed in assembly for all LA students. After assembly the brothers, Sean and Jamie Oshima, led a workshop for a smaller group of students. The workshop focused on the artistic and business challenges of transitioning from amateur to professional musicians, including how they write and record their songs, what it is like to be in a band with your brother, and how to get songs on the popular music-sharing website Spotify.

The Oshimas encouraged students to participate in the cell phone challenge. Sean said, “it’s true that we are all addicted to our phones. This is a good idea that Ezra had to give them up for a few days. It’s hard! I depend on my phone for my work, but I hate how much I use it–it gets in my way, creatively. I am going to try to give it up for a few days, and you should too!”

Oshima workshop

The Oshima Brothers led a workshop in a Poe Theater where they discussed songwriting, the music industry, and being in a band as brothers.

“The workshop went really well,” said Smith. “Poe Theater was almost full and everyone seemed genuinely interested and excited to be there. I also think that the Oshima Brothers were super helpful for creating excitement around the Challenge; a few classmates told me directly after community meeting that the Oshima Brothers were ‘sooooo good,’ and I think that the combination of their youth and the fact that they endorsed the Challenge increased the interest… I think people are thinking that ‘if the cool kids’ support being phone-free, then ‘I should be phone-free too!’ That was my hope in inviting them to come and perform, so I’m glad that it worked out that way.”

As of Monday, 27 people had already dropped their phones off with Dean of Students Jake Abbott, and more plan to do so over the next several days.

“Nearly all of the students at LA have and use a cell phone-they come through the doors of the school every day,” said Abbott. “In the learning environment they can be incredibly difficult to manage and yet, we all seem to have our own personal needs for them. There are so many reasons to have one and yet we learn daily why there are more and more reasons to put them down for a while. I am really happy to see so many students participating in this challenge and I hope that some us walk away with an understanding that it really is okay to put the phone down for a while.”

The LA Phone-Free Challenge is sponsored by the LA music department, Sheepscot General Store, Healthy Lincoln County, and individual donors.