Year 6’s Great Digital Debate

As part of their English learning, Year 6 pupils have been investigating how technology, specifically the Internet, affects our everyday lives. They began by forming their own opinion before casting a critical eye over experts views and even looked at views expressed by a Slam Poet. After watching the Newsround special ‘Is Tech taking over?’  they were inspired to run their own technology experiment:

Last week, pupils from Year 6 at Tewkesbury C of E Primary School launched a social experiment to see how technology was affecting their lives. The investigators  [teachers] split the children into three groups over the weekend.

The pupils would either have two hours of tech each day, no tech or their usual rules. This experiment has changed some of the pupils minds about technology. One pupil in the no tech group said it ‘hurt them emotionally’. Some children felt guilty because they had unlimited tech and others did not have this ‘luxury’.

Only some children followed these rules. Here are the percentages:

  • Usual rules – 90% stuck to the rules.
  • 2 hours – 10%  success, 30% attempted but failed, and 60% ignored the rules.
  • No tech – 20% attempted but failed and 80% ignored the rules. one of the pupils in this group said ‘Tech is my life!’

We talked about the word ‘luxury’. We decided this was an important word because having tech isn’t necessarily essential. Having tech is a luxury; the experiment was to find out what people would do without this everyday ‘luxury’. This is why it is an important subject.

By Isobel Handley, summarising findings form her class.


As a class we then separated arguments for and against Internet use under categories such as family, communication, safety, intelligence, gaming, networks and employment. For example, they considered it a great advantage to be able to communicate with family over large distances but also considered that time is more special when meet people face to face. They also thought the Internet would be very helpful when it came to finding work, and how important it then would be to ensure they don’t put embarrassing things online for others – like future employers – to see.

They also took notes from scientific research and were surprised to learn that, according to one study presented by Lior Frenkel, adults check their phones 110 times per day and that 75% of students said they would rather forget their wallet than their phone. As well as looking at scientific findings, they listened to ‘Can we auto-correct humanity?’ by Prince Ea and were particularly impressed by clever word play like ‘anti-social network’ and ‘We should smile when we have low batteries, because that means we are one bar closer to humanity’

Finally, pupils used their research to argue in a formal debate, persuading each other to agree or disagree with the following statements:

  • The Google effect is real and is making human beings more stupid. 
  • We are addicted to technology/our smartphones?
  • The world would be a better place without WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram etc.

Many pupils showed themselves to be very skilled in the art of persuasion and rhetorical language. Harriet Gilder was particularly effective at getting her point across with passion and maturity, reminding her class that humanity had got on fine before the Internet.

Pupils will now begin drafting a balanced argument to way up all the opinions and facts they have been finding out about