By Ryan Krantz, VI Form
Teens without Screens
Editor’s Note: This project was made possible with the support of the Class of 1968 V Form Fellowship. At their 25th reunion, the Class of 1968 created a fund to provide grants to V Form students for independent study during the school year or, more commonly, during the summer between V and VI Forms. Their intent in establishing this fund was to reward independent thinking, ingenuity, and planning and to encourage the student exploring non-traditional fields of inquiry or using non-traditional methods of investigation.
Student-Submitted Note: I was awarded this grant to take a surfing road trip down the East Coast, without my phone.
In a world where humans are becoming increasingly dependent on electronic devices in all aspects of our lives, adolescents are particularly susceptible to screen addiction. The average American teenager spends over seven hours a day on screens, which accounts for about 40% of our conscious realities. My friends and I realized that we too, are victims of the “screenager” epidemic, and we wanted to know what our lives would be like if we didn’t have phones. In the winter of my junior year, I received a grant from the Class of 1968 V Form Fellowship at St. Marks to take a road trip along the east coast without my phone. My two best friends Conor Sullivan and Toby Zeidenberg agreed to come along on the road trip, and so on August 11, 2022, we left our phones, computers, and all other screens behind and hit the road.
As skimboarders (a form of surfing), we designed our road trip to pass through the best skimboard towns along the East Coast, and to skimboard at each beach. We began our trip in Rhode Island and traveled through Connecticut until we arrived at our first destination, Fire Island, New York. We strolled straight onto the beach and asked the lifeguards where the best spot to skimboard was. They pointed to a section of the beach that was segregated from the main crowd of beachgoers, but also mentioned that recent shark attacks had kept swimmers out of these waters. All afternoon, we skimboarded in that section, but not without shark paranoia haunting our every step in the water. Despite the unpleasant fear of sharks, a beautiful wave rolled in every now and then that made the session worthwhile.
We crashed at a friend’s house on Fire Island, and we woke up early the next morning to set off to our next destination: New Jersey. After a 3-hour drive, we arrived in Monmouth County and stepped foot onto the Jersey Shore. We had been particularly excited about this beach, as its unique shoreline shape pitches a wave that shoots off a jetty in two different directions. The famed wave did not disappoint, and we skimboarded all day, and we even met a few locals who told us about the dangerous stingrays that roam these waters. Once again I was paranoid, but luckily my excitement about the waves far outshined my fear of the stingrays.
The next day, we hauled our way to Dewey Beach, Delaware, where the world championships of skimboarding were taking place. We were pretty blown away by how big of a setup there was for the contest, as there were tents and bleachers all across the shoreline. We spent the whole day watching the skim competition, and we even were able to skimboard with some of the best professionals from all over the world. There was an incredible energy on the beach that day, and the waves shaped up really nice in the afternoon for the professionals to throw down some killer waves. This was our last day of the trip, and so that night we trekked our way back to Rhode Island.
When I think back on our ‘teens without screens’ road trip, I have three main takeaways about how not having our phones impacted our trip.
Takeaway #1 Inconvenience
It’s obvious. But dang! We rely on these puppies for everything. I realized that I use my phone to call restaurants, hotels, my mother, my sister, friends, and anyone else in my life. I use my phone as a flashlight, notebook, calculator, GPS, timer, wallet, weather forecaster, and about a million other things. Not having our phones was a major inconvenience, and I am impressed that human civilizations were once able to function without them.
Takeaway #2 Presence
Without phones to distract us in the 20 hours we spent in the car, or to pass the time at lunch and dinner or during a long beach day, we had to look reality in the eye for every second of that road trip. Three months later I remember this road trip as clear as day, and I think that can be credited to our absolute presence while devoid of phones. Our minds had more time to consider, gather, and store every smell, sight, feeling, taste, and sound that we experienced in each state. I think that’s why my memory of the trip is so crystal clear. Or maybe, we were just having a lot of fun and my brain tries to remember that stuff.
Takeaway #3 Companionship
When you can’t call or text anyone, your entire world becomes you and the people directly around you. For the three days we were on the road trip, I got to spend every moment with my two friends, Toby and Conor. Without our phones, we really only had each other, and I think that made us value one another more. I’ll admit that we got on each other’s nerves every now and then (it was a lot of time in the car), but this was well worth all the joy and laughs that we shared.
I am extremely thankful to the Class of 1968 V Form Fellowship for giving me the opportunity to take this trip, and I encourage all St. Markers to take advantage of the grant opportunities at St. Marks to pursue their own passions and interests.
Ryan Krantz is a VI form day student from Southborough, MA. Ryan enjoys studying French and Environmental Science Courses.