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"Screen-Free Week" Starts Today: Can you Do without the PDA?

April 18, 2011

CONCORD, N.H. - Turn off your tablets, step away from the computer and pull the plug on the TV. That's the challenge for Granite Staters this week, coming from a nationwide campaign to alert families to the enormous amount of time spent with electronic entertainment. Screen-Free Week is an effort to encourage parents and their kids to get outside for some physical recreation, take in a community event, or just stop texting all the time.

Jaci Clement, executive director of the Fair Media Council, admits it won't be easy.

"I think people would probably try to kill you if you cut off their access entirely."

Instead, parents are encouraged to cut back on their own smart-phone tapping to set an example for their children. Families looking to share their screen-free experience can participate in planned activities, or register their own events.

Dana Friedman, president of the Early Years Institute (EYI), says that, while the focus of Screen-Free Week is children, parents have to realize they need to set an example if their families are not going to turn into uncommunicative, overweight couch potatoes.

"We've all had the experience of walking into a restaurant and seeing Mom on her BlackBerry, texting, and Dad on the cell phone, and each of the kids has some electronic device now. They sit down at the meal and nobody talks to each other."

Jaci Clement says Screen-Free Week aims at helping young people balance their interest in technology with getting out and spending time with people.

"The real goal is to get people to realize how much time they spend either watching television or playing on their hand-held or sitting behind a computer screen."

Dana Friedman feels parents have to step up and acknowledge their own electronic dependency issues.

"Part of the reason young children don't go outside is because adults don't take them. And a lot of what parents are doing is checking their BlackBerrys non-stop, or they're on the computer themselves."

Organizers of Screen-Free Week provide activity guides and tool kits for those who can't think of what to do without electronics; some New Hampshire events are included. Granted, you'll need to power up long enough to access their website, bit.ly/gwBBaY

The EYI website is: www.eyi.org/eyi

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH