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It's Our Turn: Screening our children

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opinion Alexandria, 56308
Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549

Free-range CHILDREN. FREE Range-children. Free RANGE children. No matter how you say it, it sounds ridiculous.

I heard the term on Z99 earlier this week in an announcement by a Screen-Free Week promoter declaring the arrival of Screen-Free Week. During April 29 through May 5, children, families, schools and communities are supposed to turn off entertainment screen media and "Turn on life!"


I have a problem with this for a number of reasons. First, life happens every day, you don't "turn it on." Is it expected we hit the power button at midnight on May 6, turn life off and revert to our former entertainment screen media zombie selves?

There is particular emphasis on preventing children from birth to 2-years-old from becoming screen-dependent. I can't count how many times I've seen babies encaptured by their mobile devices...seriously, I can't count the times because I don't believe I've ever seen it occur.

Next, how many months, weeks and days do we need to designate for one cause or another? Can't we just pick something we are passionate about and dedicate our time and energy to what matters to us anytime we want? That may be a different rant entirely.

To the point of the free-range children. I wonder how much money and time was invested in the creation of that genius term. Time, energy and dollars I presume involved a marketing team that used computers and media to illustrate how Screen-Free Week would be "kicked off." I despise that phrase. I also find it odd that the logo is an electrical outlet.

BTW. You can find Screen-Free Week online, on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. I guess that's solely for educational purposes.

I believe I am included in this free-range category since I grew up in a time before cell phones and iPads. Although, I do remember Atari, Nintendo and how awesome it was to have a cordless phone that would work on your front steps.

So, what are the children of today being labelled? Cage-dwelling, domestically-cultured, electronically-enabled?

I get it. I support it. But I do not agree with the way it is being presented. I don't have children. Surprise! But I do have a 15-year-old nephew who I observe on his cell phone constantly. He also hangs out with friends at the skatepark and gets into trouble like a "live" teenager.

My 8-year-old niece was given a tablet for her birthday. Why? I have no idea. But she also plays in the sprinkler outside, jumps on the trampoline and rides her bike. It's about balance.

The world we live in today will never be the same as yesterday, no matter how much we yearn for simpler times. I'm sure many of you have "liked" the Facebook post that asks if you've drank from the garden hose as a kid. Numerous environmentalists would gasp at the thought of today's sanitized generation doing the same.

Change is inevitable. The written word replaced oral storytelling. The typeset letter replaced handwriting. Computer processors replaced typewriters. Mp3s replaced cds that replaced cassettes, that replaced 8-tracks, that replaced records that replaced live music...sort of. Maybe replaced isn't the right verb. Advanced may better describe the progression of predecession.

I hope kids today still chase the rainbow on their bikes on Saturday morning. Make lawnchair forts. Play Frisbee. Get Mr. Freeze mouth. Have lemonade stands and use Kool-Aid instead. Play the floor is lava (No, Daniel Tosh, you didn't invent this game.), jump in leaf piles and splash in puddles.

I urge parents to pass down their stories, their experience, their knowledge to the next generation and let them continue to make advancements in technology, to be the future.

Give them free range to be children.

DeyCrystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.