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Illustration by Angelica Conde, 17, Los Angeles HS

Our staff knew it would be hard to go without their TVs, phones and the Internet. A study found that teens spend more than four hours watching TV every day. Another said a typical teen sends about 50 texts a day, and three-quarters are on social networks like Facebook and MySpace. Most of these writers lasted the full week, even though it wasn’t easy.

Without my iPod I noticed more things around me

I love music so giving up my iPod was definitely a challenge. I listen to it during car rides, when I’m eating at restaurants, and sometimes when I’m supposed to be sleeping.

The first few days were the worst. I was trying to study at the library when this guy started talking nonstop to one of his friends. I wanted to reach for my iPod so I wouldn’t have to listen to him, but I couldn’t. So I tried to do my work but finally moved to another table.

This challenge was especially difficult when I was at home. My parents were installing a floor, so they were constantly using the nail gun. I really wanted to use my iPod to drown out the noise. But I stuck it out by going to my backyard and reading a book instead.

After  a couple of days, it got easier. I paid more attention to the things around me and was more productive. I noticed a cat in my backyard bushes. I read books like Sybil and Dubliners.

Without my iPod, I started remembering songs that I had forgotten about. I had always skipped one of my former favorite songs, Green Day’s “Jesus of Suburbia,” after years of wearing it out. However, after singing the song randomly during the challenge, I began to remember how much I loved the song, and I missed listening to it.

I realized I spend too much time using my iPod and feel like I need to always have it with me. I am going to try to use my iPod less by not bringing my earphones with me everywhere I go. Hopefully I’ll be more attentive.
Melissa Hu, 16, Ramona Convent (Alhambra)

It was hard to avoid TV when it’s everywhere

I decided to do this challenge because I watch a lot of TV. In the summer, the first thing I did after waking up was turn on the TV in the living room. Sometimes it didn’t matter what show it was, as long as I could pass time and not be bored. I sometimes even watched infomercials. I thought this challenge would help me get more done, but giving up TV for a week was harder than I thought.

On Monday as soon as I woke up I thought about the shows I’d be missing like I Love Lucy reruns and a Spanish soap opera. I killed time by going on the Internet. In the afternoon, my mom and I went to the supermarket, where there was a TV in every corner of the store! Near the meat section, I looked up and saw an actress from my favorite soap opera and recognized it was Telemundo. “How can they do that to me, don’t they know I’m not suppose to watch TV!?” I turned away immediately but I still felt bad. I was hoping for a perfect week without TV. However, I was determined to not give up.

On Tuesday, I went to my aunt’s house next door and before I knew it I was staring at the video game my cousin was playing. Then I went to the bedroom where my other cousin was watching a movie and I left immediately. I went home and read 1984, my summer reading. The book was full of suspense and I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t think about TV at all.

On Wednesday and Friday I even saw a TV on the bus that showed news clips, games and ads. I took a book to read on Friday to avoid watching.

On Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, I could control not watching TV by staying in my bedroom. Instead of watching TV, I cleaned my desk, looked through college brochures and finalized my college list. I felt more productive but I wanted to watch TV with my family because I could hear them laughing.

When the challenged ended, I wanted to keep going because I did more that week than any other week in the summer. But I knew I would eventually cave and want to watch TV.  I realized that TV distracted me and that not watching it helped. Now I only watch my favorite shows and skip boring ones.
Alma Sanchez, 17, Orthopaedic Hospital Medical Magnet HS

Literally lost without my phone

I always knew that I depended way too much on my phone. But I didn’t know how much, so I decided to do this challenge to find out.

Every morning since I got a smart phone freshman year, I’ve used The Weather Channel app to figure out what to wear. On the first morning I had to dress without guidance, but thankfully I was able to predict that the day would be cold and foggy by looking out my window. When was the last time I did that … eighth grade?

I also lost track of time. I haven’t worn a watch for more than a year, because my phone showed the time. So I was late picking up friends who took the bus for two hours to come from Santa Monica to Palos Verdes. I also was late to my tutoring job. And even worse, I couldn’t call people to tell them that I was running late.

Getting places was harder, too. I got lost because I couldn’t use the GPS on my phone. My driving, though, got a lot safer because I no longer had my phone in one hand checking directions while driving with the other.

But the number one inconvenience was not having my contact list. I forgot to write down my friends’ and family members’ phone numbers before I started the challenge. It was sad to realize that I couldn’t remember my brother’s and my mom’s cell phone numbers. Oh how I was tempted to turn on the phone for just a second to look up phone numbers!

In the midst of all the problems, however, I found peace not worrying about missing a text message or an e-mail.

This challenge was a great learning experience. It surprised me how I’d overlooked even the simplest things like remembering phone numbers. We all should take some time to think about how we can depend less on our cell phones.
Elliot Kwon, 18, Palos Verdes Peninsula HS

It was a long week without video games, TV and going online

Every day I go on YouTube, play games like Call of Duty on my PlayStation3 and watch TV. How would I survive one day, let alone one week, without them?

On the first day of my tech-free week I already felt like I was at the breaking point. I read Voltaire’s Candide in a single day for my summer homework. But I couldn’t stop my mind from wandering to thoughts of TV, my PlayStation or surfing the web. Why had I ever agreed to do this?

The second day was much easier than the first, because I spent half the day at a writing camp. By the third day I had finished reading the second novel in Tom Becker’s Darkside series, Lifeblood, but was feeling the urge to fire up my PlayStation again. I held out. Friday brought a renewed interest in my Nerf guns, toys I hadn’t used in three years. I ran around my house, imagining I was in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, shooting other online players. In reality I was just firing my gun at lamps and furniture.

On Saturday I spent the night at my friend’s house. As I sat in my buddy’s basement, I was tempted to play his PlayStation. My friends tried to sway me, saying that going six days was long enough, but I held out. My friends, although they wanted me to play with them, respected my challenge and didn’t play any games themselves. In place of video games, we just sat around talking.

The morning of my return to the electronic world, I turned on my Playstation right after I woke up. Even though it was long and painful, I learned that I can survive without the TV, computer and PlayStation (at least for a week). Was it worth it? Yes, because I rekindled my interest in reading and I was able to resist some of the strongest peer pressure that I’ve faced.
Henry Studebaker, 15, Hamilton HS

I didn’t miss much on Facebook

Facebook is my addiction. It’s open whenever my computer is on. I thought that giving it up for a week would be impossible, but it wasn’t.

I had to keep it off of my mind and fingertips by deleting the Facebook app from my phone, removing the bookmark on Safari and taking it off my favorites.

Once I didn’t have easy access, I felt like someone had just written on my wall. I felt like posts were being published, photos were being commented on and people were writing to me. I wanted to check but every time I would think about giving in, I knew in my gut that there was probably nothing happening, so I resisted.

On the third day I went to the movies and there was a trailer for The Social Network, a movie about Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook. Watching it, I had a sudden urge to go on Facebook on my cell phone.

To fill the void of not having a place to see other peoples’ thoughts, I turned to Twitter for a day. I rarely use my Twitter and not many of my friends use Twitter so no one really said anything except for the bands and celebrities I followed. Facebook was always in my subconscious. I would turn to my phone and touch the screen where the Facebook app used to be.

On the fourth day I was in a photography class and a kid had Facebook open on a computer. He was talking with my friends about another friend’s photo and I couldn’t look or be a part of the conversation. I looked away and fiddled with my fingers.

When I was at home I tried harder to make plans with people. After a week without Facebook I realized that all I really wanted Facebook for was to be a connection to others when I was alone. When I went back onto Facebook I realized that I didn’t miss much while I was off. The first thing I saw when I signed on was someone’s status that said, “bored :(” and I didn’t really care. I realized that Facebook is not worth spending all day on.
Zoe Lemelson, 15, Crossroads School (Santa Monica)

I couldn’t go a whole week without TV

My mother always urges me to go outside and stop watching television. So, during my no-tech challenge that’s what I gave up.

Day one was difficult. My family watches an excessive amount of TV. So as I laid on my bed listening to them laugh at an episode of Family Guy, my patience approached its limit. Right before I was about to go into the living room, I saw a sign I wrote several months ago that read, “Never Give Up.” It forced me to shut my door and resort to my sleep-inducing summer reading assignment: Crime and Punishment.

The following two days were depressing. I was often lonely in my room. Facebook, Twitter and games dominated my daily routine. I turned into the “computer freak” type I had ridiculed—not a pleasant image.

I can’t say that the entire experience was torturous. On day four, I went to the beach with my friends, which I probably would not have done if I hadn’t given up television. One of my friends brought a spare surfboard. Since I had nothing better to do, I tried surfing. Unfortunately, I sucked. My body ached with bruises from falling so many times. Nevertheless, the exhilaration of trying something new was one of my most enjoyable moments this summer.

When I got home my family was huddled in front of the television. As I hurried toward my room to avoid failing the challenge, I heard my mother gasp.

Reflexively, I directed my eyes toward the screen and caught a glimpse of some guys fighting on this Korean show my family was watching. I sat down and watched that scene and the next one and also the program after that. A little voice inside my head kept telling me, “It’s not too late!” But that voice was muffled by my brother’s mocking claim, “I knew you couldn’t go without television. You’re addicted!”

As disappointed as I was, I was not sad. I went four successful days, and that was still a huge accomplishment for me.
Adrian Kimmok, 17, West HS (Torrance)

I didn’t make it, but I learned to cut back on the Internet

The moment I get on the computer I go to I spend an hour or two every day reading some of the thousands of mangas, which are Japanese comic books, that have been translated to English. I love getting lost in the stories about love and relationships. My friends say that I’m addicted to the site. I did the challenge to see if I was truly addicted or if I was visiting the site to do something other than chores or homework. Honestly, I hoped that it was procrastination because I didn’t like the idea of being addicted to anything at my age.

I started on a Monday. I spent my morning watching TV, then I did chores. By 2:30 p.m. I was bored and decided to start my summer reading. That occupied me until 5:30. Then I did something drastic … I went outside! I ran on the trail next to my house. The rest of the day was “family time,” so I was free from temptation. I didn’t feel heartbroken that I wasn’t able to read manga, but I still missed it.

Tuesday was very much like Monday, doing chores and reading. Wednesday I had to check my e-mail. I was worried about temptation. I went straight to my e-mail but after reading them I went to YouTube and went looking for mangas without even thinking. (I knew that I could find some.) I spent 20 minutes reading the mangas. I wasn’t trying to procrastinate, but I knew, deep down, that I didn’t want to read any of the books I had on my reading list. I felt like I had done something wrong because I wanted to go without reading any mangas. But I did the same thing Thursday. I was appalled by how I cheated.

I spent Friday assessing my behavior, and I had an epiphany. I only truly missed reading the stories about love and relationships. Thanks to this challenge, I was able to discover that I’ve procrastinating way too much and that’s not how I want to spend my valuable time.
Kristy Plaza, 16, Duarte HS

I was bored waiting for my mom without my phone

Sydney Chou 14, Sonora HS

When I told my mom I was going to go without my cell phone for a week, she was more nervous than I was. “What are you going to do if you get kidnapped?” she asked me. I expected that kind of reaction from her because she’s very protective. I told her I would be careful.

My cell phone is important because I have a hectic schedule. My mom likes it when I call her after I’m done with tutoring or meetings so she knows when and where to pick me up. I also send about 20 texts a day to friends and family and I use my phone to create my schedule.

Before I left for summer school on a Monday, my mom and I arranged where she would pick me up. I asked her to try her best to come on time because she’s usually late. I left my phone in the glove compartment of her car so I wouldn’t be tempted to turn it on if I got bored waiting for her. To pass the time I brought a couple of my summer reading novels. I also wore my old watch so I wouldn’t have to ask people for the time. It was awkward wearing it because I hadn’t worn it in years. During the week, she was usually around five to 10 minutes late to pick me up from summer school and tutoring. This didn’t change compared to normal.

On the third day summer school ended. It was cloudy, windy and cold and of course my mom was late. As I stood shivering and reading in a short-sleeved shirt and shorts for 20 minutes the cold got to me. I wondered if she got into a car accident. When she arrived, I felt greatly relieved and ran to the car for warmth.

After tutoring on the fourth day, I waited for about 15 minutes for my mom. But since I couldn’t text anyone, it seemed like 30. One time, I saw a car that was the same as my mom’s so I approached it. But it wasn’t my mom’s car. I was so embarrassed I walked back to where I was waiting.

After surviving a week without my cell phone, I learned how to be more patient and I realized that cell phones and other devices are making us less patient. Even though I waited for my parents a lot during the week, I learned to become more patient. On the last day of my challenge, the five to ten minutes wait didn’t seem so long. Yes, technology is efficient, but everything that’s good always has a downside.
Sydney Chou, 14, Sonora HS