Friday, April 25, 2014

Community-Based Partnership Launches the “Unplug & Connect” Initiative

With the proliferation of mobile screens, the challenge is finding how to help children balance screen timewith real time. This means developing in children a strong connection to people and nature to balance the connection they have with screens.

Research indicates that the more time children engage with screens, the harder time they have turning them off as they become older children. The brain is also very dependent on human social interaction and excessive screen time decreases important face-to-face communication skills development.

In a coordinated effort to spread the message throughout the Tri-Cities about the need for children to balance screen timewith real time, the Coquitlam Optimists, Coquitlam School District, Tri-Cities Early Childhood Committee, and Tri-Cities Middle Childhood Matters have partnered to launch the Unplug & Connectinitiative.

Angelo Lam, Coordinator of Tri-Cities Middle Childhood Matters, said Weve been working on the idea for a screen smart initiative for several years with the Coquitlam School District and Early Childhood Committee. We knew from the Early Development Instrument (EDI) and Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) data that any focused effort to enhance the social competence and pro-social behaviour of children 0-12 in the Tri-Cities would contribute to children growing up happier and healthier. What we were looking for, to make this project a reality, was a strong community-based partner so we are thrilled to have the Coquitlam Optimists on board.

Distribution of Unplug & Connectposters will begin April 30th at the Family Play & Learn Night which takes place at Coquitlam Centre. In the following weeks, theyll be distributed through schools and be available at participating libraries, non-profit agencies and community centres. The themes of the first two posters are: connecting to nature and connecting to people. Other themes will be added over the next 12 months.

To further strengthen the Unplug & Connectmessage, Tri-Cities school students are also engaged in a contest to design a creative outdoor learning space using natural materials. Coquitlam Optimists will select 3 winning entries and contribute $1,000 to the winning entries to put towards building their designs. Once the learning spaces are built, they will be designated Screen Free Zonesas part of the Unplug & Connectinitiative. Contest details are available at

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