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It's Screen-Free Week – Dare You Look Away?

April 18, 2011

DENVER - Turn off your tablet, step away from the computer and pull the plug on the TV. Coloradans are being challenged to do that for a week in a nationwide campaign to alert families to the enormous amount of time they spend with electronic entertainment.

Screen-Free Week, April 18-24, 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 with 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 smartphone tapping to set an example for their children.

The Early Years Institute has a list on its website of activities that do not involve sticking one's head in a screen and instead encourage human interaction, talking and playing.

Dana Friedman with the Early Years Institute says 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. They sit down at the meal and nobody talks to each other."

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 watching television or playing on their hand-held or sitting behind a computer screen."

Friedman urges parents to step up and acknowledge their own electronic dependency issues.

"Part of the reason why 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 nonstop, or they're on the computer themselves."

Hiking trails, arts and crafts classes, spring-break recreation camps and nature walks are among the dozens of alternative activities listed on the Early Years Institute website, http://www.earlyyearsinstitute.org/eyi/index.php. Screen-Free Week events across the nation are listed at http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/screenfreeweek/events.html.

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO