Town and local nonprofit officials are urging New Canaan families this month to unplug their mobile devices and spend more time communicating directly with each other.
The Department of Human Services-led “30 Days of Family” initiative this year has taken up “tech-free family time” as its motto.
Unplugging forces family members to talk to each other “with their voices and spend quality time making eye contact and practicing listening skills,” according to Jacqueline D’Louhy, the department’s coordinator of youth and family services.
“Think about how much teens ‘talk’ to each other electronically,” D’Louhy said. “Sometimes they’ll be sitting in the same room but never utter a word to one another. This is hurting social skills and communication, which are essential building blocks for long-term success. We need adults to help our youth model this behavior because we are not the best at unplugging ourselves.”
Organizations supporting the effort include the New Canaan Chamber of Commerce, Silver Hill Hospital, Ram Council, New Canaan YMCA, New Canaan CARES, New Canaan Library, New Canaan Nature Center, Grace Community Church, Grace Farms Foundation, New Canaan Mounted Troop, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and Kids in Crisis.
The organizations are holding their own events or, in cases such as Silver Hill, providing funding for giveaway baskets that New Canaan families are encouraged to pick up for use at home.
Available for pick-up at locations including Walter Stewart’s Market, Vine Cottage and New Canaan Library (see a full list here), the baskets are designed to hold mobile devices on family’s dinner tables during meals or movie-watching at home, as the initiative is designed, in part, to encourage locals to spend more time together.
According to Human Services, families that eat dinner together five times per week have children who are 33 percent less likely to use alcohol or drugs.
The chamber’s Laura Budd said New Canaan CARES shared its tips for monitoring tech for young families, and that volunteers from the National Charity League helped affix those tips to the baskets. They include not letting technology substitute as a babysitter, installing filtering software on children’s devices, balancing tech use with physical activity and requiring kids to “turn in” devices overnight.
“The chamber is proud to support the 30 Days of Family effort,” Budd said. “We enjoy working with all the different coaltion groups throughout town and helping with the marketing of the event and how it is a perfect example of our everyday mission to connect community with commerce and we are happy to house the web page right on website.”