Unplug and Reconnect Endorses ‘Screen-Free Week’

We at Unplug and Reconnect are proud to endorse “Screen-Free Week,” a weeklong unplugging event sponsored by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) during the week of April 30 to May 6, 2012.

According to the CCFC, “Screen-Free Week is an annual celebration where children, families, schools and communities turn off screens and turn on life. Instead of relying on screens for entertainment, participants read, daydream, explore, enjoy nature and enjoy spending time with family and friends.”

The statistics tell the story of why an event like “Screen-Free Week” is necessary. Children as young as preschool-age spend an average of 32 hours a week viewing a television or computer screen for entertainment – and older children even more time than that, according to the CCFC. This screen time has been linked to poor school performance, childhood obesity and attention problems, and also exposes children to harmful marketing.

“Regardless of whether they are consuming ‘good’ or ‘bad’ programming, it’s clear that screen media dominates the lives of far too many children, displacing all sorts of other activities that are integral to childhood,” the CCFC points out.

We hope our readers will consider joining the thousands of parents, teachers, healthcare professionals, and religious and civic leaders who are supporting “Screen-Free Week” with a wide range of unplugged activities. For more information about this valuable initiative, check out the campaign’s website.

Ringing Phone Halts Symphony Performance

Some people apparently can’t live without their smart phones. This was recently proven by an elderly gentlemen whose phone rang and rang . . . and rang, forcing the conductor to halt a performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall earlier this month.

Apologizing to 2,700 concertgoers, music director and conductor Alan Gilbert explained: “Usually, when these things occur, we ignore them. But this is such an egregious disturbance that I am forced to stop.”

It seems the ringing phone, set to play a Marimba ringtone, was competing with a particularly quiet moment in the emotional 82-minute Mahler work. The phone’s owner is said to have sheepishly turned off his phone as fellow concertgoers shouted, “Throw him out!”

Now cell phones are a wonderful convenience, helping to keep us connected with loved ones, friends and colleagues. But as the symphony guest’s behavior so egregiously demonstrated, there are times — like at a performance or when sharing a meal with others — when a cell phone should be turned off so that we can tune in to the people and events that are important to us.

The Price of Peace and Quiet

In this era of 24-7 technology, the increasingly rare luxury of peace and quiet ought to be added to the list of the world’s most precious commodities, right up there with fresh air, clean water, copper, gold and diamonds.

Just ask vacation-goers who can afford to buy a slice of quiet. They’re shelling out cool thousands in order to travel to so-called “black-hole” destinations – places where technology can’t creep in.

So says Travel & Leisure, which predicts: “The greatest luxury of the 21st century will be dropping off the grid. Black-hole resorts will be notable for the total absence of the Internet – even their walls will be impervious to wireless signals.”

The ultimate getaway, these pricey resorts can be found “on mountaintops, in quaint villages, or in sleek urban centers,” according to the travel magazine.

For those willing to splurge less, “glamping” – is becoming another chic way to get away from it all.

What’s glamping? It’s a phrase coined by Mary Jane Butters, owner of Mary Jane’s Farm, which was recently named one of the top five destinations in America to unplug. Visitors to Mary Jane’s Farm can nix the noise of technology through an outdoor vacation experience that combines camping and glamour.

“Unplugging is the new ‘decompressing,’” Butters said in an interview with Enhanced Online News. “And, due to the economy, Americans are turning to camping as an affordable vacation option.”

Of course, for those of us who can’t afford to get away right now, there’s always the option of turning off the cell phone, shutting down the computer, tuning out the television. We call it unplugging.

Exercising Willpower to Unplug from Technology

“Willpower,” a new book by psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and “New York Times” science writer John Tierney, provides some great tips for exercising self-control. It’s a great skill to have for those of us who have resolved to be less tied to technology in the new year.

The authors of “Willpower” liken willpower to a muscle that can be both strengthened or weakened. In Baumeister’s experiments, students asked to engage in tasks requiring tremendous impulse control later suffered from serious willpower lapses when asked to perform subsequent tasks also requiring willpower – something Baumeister calls “ego depletion.”

But the psychologist also found out that like a muscle, willpower can be strengthened over time by undertaking small tasks requiring self-control. For example, Baumester asked students to exercise regularly, use a mouse with their weaker hand, or speak in complete sentences without swearing. He found that students who accomplished these tasks successfully were more resistant to ego depletion and showed greater self-control in other areas of their lives. Not surprisingly, say the authors, people who exercise willpower frequently – such as observant religious people – often have better self-control than those who don’t.

We at Unplug and Reconnect were inspired by “Willpower” to think about how Baumeister’s and Tierney’s strategies could be put to practical use for those who want to take an occasional break from technology. So, with a nod to the authors, we offer these ideas:

  • Start small. If your goal is to drastically cut down the time you spend glued to technology, don’t try to go cold turkey – start with baby steps.
  • Practice. Build your willpower muscle by designating a tech-free hour everyday. Work your way up as you build your self-control muscle.
  •  Out of sight means out of mind. Put your cell phone in another room during meals, at bedtime, or at any other time you want to avoid using it.
  • Make it less convenient. If you want to spend less time on the computer, shut it down completely so it’s less easy to log on.

 

Nielsen: Teens Love Texting

According to the marketing research firm Nielsen, teenagers are less likely to hold actual phone conversations and more likely than any other age demographic to send text messages instead.

In the past year, teens helped to triple mobile data consumption in the United States, contributing to what Nielsen calls a “mobile data tsunami.”

The number of messages exchanged monthly by teens averaged 3,417 per teen in the  third quarter of 2011, the period studied. That’s the equivalent of an average of seven messages per waking hour.

Interestingly, teenage girls were more likely to send text messages – 40 percent more messages than boys, or an average of 3,952 text messages in a month compared with 2,815 text messages a month. But overall, teen males had the most cellular activity – including use of mobile Internet, social networking, email, app downloads, etc., consuming 382 megabytes per month while females used 266 megabytes.

A tsunami indeed.