Date of Award

Winter 1-19-2024

Document Type

Thesis (Master's)

Department or Program

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

First Advisor

Barbara S. Kreiger

Second Advisor

Anna Minardi

Third Advisor

David A. Van Wie


For nearly twenty years I have worked directly with adolescents as an independent school educator. Whether in the classroom, on the field, or in the dorm, I have observed and supported students through their middle and high school experiences. During this time, I have witnessed an alarming shift in adolescent physical, emotional, and social wellbeing. Concurrently, I have observed a dramatic increase in the amount of time students spend using screen-based devices, and a decrease in their time spent outdoors.

Using research to ground my anecdotal accounts in empirical understanding, my thesis examines whether or not screen use might help to explain some of the negative trends in adolescent wellbeing. Further, my work explores whether nature could be used as a strategy to prevent and improve many of the emotional and physical concerns we are seeing in teens today.

The structure of my thesis includes three chapters that blend anecdotal stories about my work in boarding schools, with academic research to help explore and explain my observations and experiences. There is also a fourth chapter with recommendations for schools on how to limit students’ exposure to screens; engage school constituents in changes to technology policies; and why it is important to build environmental-educational opportunities into the academic and residential life curriculums. It is my hope that by exploring these themes in my thesis, my findings will not only help inform my own work with students, but also provide insights that are broadly relevant and applicable to fellow educators, parents, or anyone who works with adolescents.

Original Citation

Peterson, Kristen H. The Shifting Landscape Of Adolescent Wellness In Boarding Schools: Can Time Spent Off Screens And Outdoors Improve Adolescent Wellbeing? 2024. Dartmouth College. Master's Thesis. 136