By Seth Shamban, 17, North Hollywood HS
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Seth Shamban Deprived of his computer, Seth rediscovered reading. His fave new word: "nabob."

In order to assist your child in maximizing his or her success in the HGM [Highly Gifted Magnet], I have compiled a list of recommended modifications that include:

     • Limited Internet use after all homework is complete. "Chatting" while doing homework is NOT recommended. Chatting takes time away from your child’s homework time. Homework that requires the use of the internet is RARELY assigned.

     • Move the computer to a location where the student is under constant supervision.

Jennifer Marciano, Counselor, North Hollywood Highly Gifted Magnet

When I think about Ms. Marciano’s words of wisdom in the school newsletter, I am amused. I am online from the time I get home until I go to bed. I "chat" with my friends while doing homework. I read The New York Times, and a slew of Web sites about television and movies. I’ve been known to waste hours on Sundays, when I should be studying for tests, playing Civilization III, or when I need to feel like I’m in middle school again, The Sims. The only time that I do not use the Internet is when I have to study or read. And still I manage to do well, collecting my As like a gleeful imp.

But the plug was pulled when I volunteered to spend a month without the computer as a public service for L.A. Youth. During a meeting, my editor Libby decided that it was inconceivable for a teenager to spend an extended amount of time without the computer, and more importantly, the Internet. I, a man of danger and mystery, decided to single-handedly overturn the stereotype of teenage computer dependency by depriving myself of a computer for a month. Finally, proof that teenagers can exercise self-control. My only request was that I be allowed to work on a scholarship essay on the computer. If I had to type any other work, I used my typewriter or my brother’s laptop.

I got my computer two years ago, and we’ve been best friends ever since. Whoever calls dog man’s best friend certainly hasn’t met my computer. He types my homework, brings me the latest news and reviews, and plays my favorite movies and games. But now my computer would have to grow cold for a month without me.

Studying was easier

In the days before the experiment began, I didn’t wean myself off the computer. In fact, I used the computer more than I usually did. Consequently, I ended up quitting cold turkey. When the time came, I said goodbye to my computer, searched for an unused composition book in my room that I could use to document my computer-free month and unplugged my Internet connection.

Right away I noticed that I spent less time studying because information stuck more readily. Usually, I have to take notes and reread them to remember what is taught in class, but without the computer, I only had to listen to lectures once.

The first two days, it wasn’t very hard to be computer-free. I just didn’t go into my room until I had to go to bed. But before my computer-free month began, I should have found something with which I could occupy my time. After a few more days it got so bad that I began wishing they made Internet Gum, so I could chew it to get me over the day’s craving. I could no longer read The New York Times, or dozens of reviews for a single film at I had to talk to my friends rather than just write e-mails. I’ve never been one to deprive myself of technological innovations. The hardest thing I had to do my first week was get the definitions for my vocabulary words out of a real dictionary—one with pages and everything. I had used most of the time. It was convenient and work-free.

I began to stuff myself into the odd world of word history, opening up my Latin and French dictionaries with increasing regularity. My family’s 1957 Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language College Edition amazed me on a weekly basis with its hints at the evolution of words from past to present and slang definitions. The dictionary has so many insights, it didn’t matter that it was deteriorating, with more wrinkled pages than an old Los Angeles Times. I learned the arcane word "nabob," a native or provincial deputy or governor of the old Mogul Empire in India. I’d always been a nerd, but being without computer made me a word nerd. Werd.

Without the computer, I began to resemble the desperately uncool, pipe-smoking college professor—the type who would wear tweed suits with patches at the elbows. It was not a good time to be my friend, as I frequently attacked my friends for common grammatical errors and improper references to literature.

It was not a good time to be me either. Without The New York Times, I became a dull bulb in the world of current affairs, getting left out of quite a few conversations I would have otherwise dominated, such as about the war in Iraq.

When the month ended I had little desire to turn on the computer. I had dreamt of the moment when the hum of my computer would fill my ears again, but after I turned it on things had changed. Computers and the Internet had been pushed out of my daily routine. I had proven that a teenager can go without a computer, but not without ill effects. That month forced me to relinquish the bond I had formed with my own computer. It’s not a bond that I have been able to repair. My computer is no more than a tool now. It isn’t my lifeblood or my friend. And this tragic change is apparent on my keyboard. I once kept it innocent and spotless, but now it has the appearance of a wounded warrior, tainted by Juice Squeeze and soy sauce. Luckily, in my battle against Ms. Marciano’s wisdom, I still collected my As at the end of the semester.