Persons of the Week: Tech-Free Teens and the Teacher Who Inspired Them

PHOTO Teens Go Tech-Free: No Facebook, Texting for One Week
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Facebook and texting are like food and water for modern-day teenagers. They think in status updates, check e-mail before brushing their teeth and fall asleep while texting.

Nicholi Wytovicz, a student at Shorecrest High School in Shoreline, Wash., said his social network usage is extreme.

"I wake up, I check Facebook, I check Twitter," he said. "I'll say it: I have an addiction."

This week, Wytovicz and his classmates have tried to go cold turkey in a challenge they called "the social experiment." Along with their rival high school, the students took a trip back to 1995: no Facebook, no texting, no e-mail, no Instant Messaging. Except for emergencies, they didn't even use their cell phones.

The 'social experiment' was somewhat inspired by the movie "The Social Network." The teenagers competed to see who could last the longest without any of the modern-day communication tools that define their lives.

When they return to school on Monday, the students will see who survived without status updates, and who was tempted to text.

The tech-addicted kids were inspired by their video production teacher, Trent Mitchell, who said he hoped his students could "think about ways they can communicate besides just sending a quick 'OMG, LOL' message."

For some students, Mitchell's hope hit home.

In a video diary, student Eimanne El Zein said by the end of the week, she started "to like 'the social experiment.' It's good to talk to people."

Wytovicz said the time away from the computer led him to appreciate old-fashioned forms of entertainment, like reading a paper-and-ink book.

"I haven't read a book in, I want to say, five or six months," he said. "I don't find time because I'm always on Facebook or Twitter."

To learn more about the students, head to their website by clicking here.

Confessions of the Facebook Generation

Mitchell said that soon after the movie "The Social Network" came out, he chided his students for paying more attention to the cell phones in their hands than their classmates by their sides.

"I jokingly said, 'You guys couldn't go a week without social networks and texting,'" he said. "And one of my students [said], 'We should do that.' And about half the class cheered and about half the class booed."

Ultimately, the half of the class that cheered won out and managed to convince not only classmates at their own school, but students at their rival high school, Shorewood, to participate in the experiment.

Mitchell said about 250 students and teachers at each high school planned to go tech-free for the week. Students who survived the week -- and didn't get caught by the "Facebook spies" who were monitoring students' online habits -- stood to win prizes donated by businesses in the community. Students in his video production class were filming the experiment and creating documentaries out of their footage.

Nate Matthews, 17, a senior at Shorewood High School, said that even one day into the experiment, he realized that old habits die hard.

"When I woke up this morning, I had a thought and my first impulse was to post it on Facebook," he said.

Matthews locked up his cell phone at home so that he wouldn't be seduced into peeking at texts, but said, "It's weird not to have something in my left pocket."

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