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Celebrate National Day for Unplugging on March 7

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There was a time not so long ago when community meant something. People actually knew their neighbors names, and the idea of spending time outdoors in the company of others who shared the same community value as you was celebrated, and not shunned. Nowadays, people rely on technology to the detriment of personal relationships. They forget that we are one human civilization, and that interacting with one another face to face, not simply through a screen, is an important part of being human.

Our lives feel busier than ever – cell phones, tablets and laptops can certainly help us be more efficient, but they can also make us feel like we need to be accessible to everyone all the time. Kids are introduced to technology at a younger age than ever before. As we prepare for the National Day for Unplugging on March 7, Jennifer Chung, co-founder of Kinsights.com, has compiled some tips to help find balance and set some boundaries around screen time.

Out of sight, out of mind. Having the TV in the family room can make the television feel like the center of your family activities. If possible, put the TV in a hutch and close the doors when not in use. If your space is limited, move it into your bedroom (or better yet, a spare bedroom) to help make TV time more structured. On weekends, the family can snuggle on the bed and watch a movie together.

Set a predetermined time for use of tablets or video games. Rather than battling over it all day, set a time and duration for when your kids will know they can play – many tablets even allow parents to pre-program access time. Consider setting play time before dinner for 30 minutes. If gives the kids a chance to unwind while you cook dinner.

Create off-limit times for all devices. For example, have everyone turn in their cell phones before mealtime. Use a dedicated drawer or box so that it becomes a habit for everyone to just drop their phone in before sitting down at the table.

Monthly unplugged day. Why unplug just once a year? Every month, ask the family to take one day to "unplug”. Have family members take turns planning activities for the day (go on a bike ride, a nature walk or visit a museum). Be sure to actually schedule the day every month and assign someone to be in charge of setting the agenda.

Make learning fun. Since you can control what games/apps are on a tablet, pick options that are interactive and educational – there are lots of fun options that also encourage math, reading, and/or spelling skills.

Curb the snacks. It’s easy to munch on snacks while watching a video without realizing how much (and how badly) you’ve eaten. Try to avoid handing out empty calorie snacks while your kids are watching – a plate of fruit and low-fat cheese make a nice sweet and savory combo for kids. And make sure you offset screen time with plenty of outdoor activities.

Family game night. Replace watching TV with a family game night. Game night is also a great opportunity to invite neighbors and friends over with their kids for some healthy competition. And its a great way to encourage good sportsmanship, team building, and cooperation.

Kinsights, co-founded by Jennifer Chung, provides parents with a safe place to seek answers to their questions while also helping them track their child’s health information. Organize your child’s growth and developmental milestones, immunizations, medications, allergies, and more. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Be sure to subscribe to this column, and stay abreast of issues involving you, the homeowners of Palm Beach County. If you've had any issues with your HOA that you'd like me to try and delve into, and possibly write about later, please let me know. Also, if you'd like to join the discussion on Twitter, you can find me athttp://twitter.com/#!/faborplumbs. While you’re at it, please read my articles about local getaways,motorsports, elections, and restaurants.

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