Families urged to unplug
Family Day Unplugged a friendly competition that encourages low-tech interaction
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 13, 2013 06:00 am
Next Monday is Family Day, a day to spend with the family, take the dog for a walk and indulge in hot chocolate. And, as in 22 communities in the Capital region, it’s time to turn off the screen.
For the third year in a row, St. Albert is competing in Family Day Unplugged with communities such as Fort Saskatchewan, Devon, Leduc and Stony Plain. The rules are simple: connect with your family and friends without the use of technology and log the time afterwards.
The annual contest is put on by the Edmonton/Evergreen region of the Family and Community Support Services Association of Alberta.
The group’s statistics show that, by graduation, the average teen will have spent more time watching screens than being in the classroom, playing sports and talking to their parents.
Yet 73 per cent of kids would rather play with their parents than watch TV or use the Internet. And those who have more than three family dinners per week are more likely to get better grades.
“It’s a drive-through generation where it is important to have family recognized because it seems in the business of life the recognition for it can get lost in the shuffle,” said Maureen Elder, a pre-school teacher at the St. Albert Family Resource Centre.
Elder said there were no screens to sit in front of when she grew up. Instead, the children made their own Monopoly board games from cereal boxes or played outside.
Nowadays, she has to teach this way of life to people. In school, the children talk about family values and traditions, and discuss activities for the weekend. That way parents also get fresh ideas for Family Day, she said.
“We really encourage the parents that this is a perfect opportunity to be able to do something specific with the family,” she said.
And there’s no shortage of things to do in St. Albert over the weekend.
The website of St. Albert’s Family and Community Support Services lists activities such as cross country skiing or snowshoeing at the park, building a snow fort (or castle) or visiting various recreation and wellness centres.
On Feb. 17 and 18 there’s also Frostival, the annual winter celebration featuring ice skating, shinny hockey, free hot dogs, hot chocolate and a fire juggler.
But you can also fill the day with more simple pleasures: roast some marshmallows, take a walk, and play some board games.
“It’s important for our kids to spend more time with their families and friends and unplug from the screens, which we are kind of inundated with,” said Angie Dedrick, neighbourhood development co-ordinator for Family and Community Support Services in St. Albert.
“Family Day Unplugged is just an opportunity for everyone to say, hey, our family is important and we don’t have to have a screen in front of us all the time.”
Participants in Family Day Unplugged take the number of hours spent away from the screen on Feb. 18, and multiply them by the number of family members. Afterwards, they can register their times at www.fcssaa.ab.ca.
While there is a certain irony in going online to log the time spent “disconnected,” Dedrick said she is also putting up a few ballot boxes at Fountain Park Recreation Centre, Servus Credit Union Place and the St. Albert Public Library.
“It’s a fun challenge between the communities but it’s basically just for bragging rights,” she said.
“The winners are the families who had the opportunity to spend the day together.”
More information on Family Day Unplugged is available online or by calling Family and Community Support Services at 780-459-1756.