Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino was of special interest to me due to the lengths we’ve gone to in the past few months to reduce Isabelle’s media consumption. As soon as I read it, I adored the story since it’s about a robot, Doug, whose parents plug him into a computer each morning so he can learn about the world around him. They think he will learn lots of facts and therefore become “the smartest robot ever.” His parents head off to work, informing him that he’s going to spend the day learning all about the city. But, as Doug learns facts about skyscrapers, trash cans, and taxi cabs, he spies the city from outside his home’s window. Therefore, he does the unthinkable: he unplugs and soars flies outside (using a jetpack, of course) in an effort to learn about the city by experiencing it. He goes into the subway system, walks under the turnstile (Caution: Make sure to tell your young readers that they shouldn’t be jumping turnstiles and riding for “free” just because Doug does!), and listens to the screech of the subway trains. He uses his jet pack to fly to the top of a skyscraper and looks down to experience the city from a different vantage point. He gets his feet stuck in cement, learns how to hail an taxi, and cools off in a park fountain. But most important, he makes a friend in a city park who he learns to play with. Doug’s life became enriched by experiencing the city live rather than by learning about it from a computer. To me, one of the morals of this story is that while technology has the potential to enrich our lives, it’s important to take time to unplug so we can concentrate and live life in the way in which we want.
Now that the weather is warmer, my daughter and I have been going outside to play at least twice a day (three outdoor stints if time permits). Sometimes we play together on her play set. Other times we dig around in my herb garden. I watch her run up and down the hill in our yard. Occasionally, we touch the shrubs or brown leaves that remain in the yard from last fall. Some days I steer her SmartTrike and narrate as we take a walk. We have no set plan when we go outside. I take many of my cues from her. And together, we live a simple existence outdoors.
Doug Unplugged reminds me of the importance of taking the time to experience life away from a screen every single day. On Monday, Screen Free Week, the annual celebration from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) begins. I’m hoping to pick up my needlepointing and also spend more times outdoors with a book, my writer’s notebook, and my sketch pad. We live in a world of dings notifying us whenever a friend is trying to reach us, there’s breaking news, or for a myriad of other things. While I’ve declined nearly every app on my iPhone to send me “push notifications,” I find myself being pulled away from personal time outside. It’s my hope to unplug, like Doug does in Doug Unplugged so I can once again appreciate the world around me. Perhaps Screen Free Week will help me lead a more purposeful existence by allowing me to cut back on media and technology so I can create an environment that has a healthier balance between screens and non-screens once Screen Free Week ends.
Random House Children’s Books is issuing an UNPLUG & READ Challenge during Screen Free Week. It was inspired by Doug Unplugged, which is a must-read in today’s world that values communicating through devices rather than face-to-face interactions. If you know kids (or teach a class of children) who need to unplug, reading Doug Unplugged is a great way to start a conversation about the importance of experiencing life first-hand and the value of human interactions. Children must learn the value of living in a three-dimensional world so they can connect with others not to something. If we don’t teach children the value of unplugging and learning from life experiences and each other, then many children are going to feel very empty, despite their media connections, in the years to come.
Many thanks to Random House for sponsoring this giveaway. One commenter will win a copy of Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino. To enter for a chance to win a copy please leave a comment on this post about Doug Unplugged, media and children, or unplugging for Screen Free Week, which starts this Monday, April 29th. All comments left on or before Tuesday, May 7th at 11:59 p.m. EDT will be entered into a random drawing using a random number generator on Wednesday, May 8th. I will announce the winners’ names at the bottom of this post no later than Thursday, May 9th. Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, my contact at Random House will ship the book out to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you only leave it in the e-mail field.)
Thank you to everyone who left a comment on this post. Dana Murphy’s commenter number was selected and therefore will receive a copy of Doug Unplugged. Here’s what she wrote:
Stacey – bless your heart for posting this. First, it sounds like a wonderful book. But more importantly, I want this book as a reminder to myself to PUT THE PHONE DOWN. I try to not be attached to my phone, but I catch myself barely listening to my kids sometimes as I’m reading emails. Terrible. I’m getting my hands on this book and I’m NOT doing that anymore!! Unplug. Yes, indeed.
- Article: Help! My iPhone Has Taken Over My Life
- Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood‘s Landing Page about Screen-Free Week
- Opinion: Your Phone vs. Your Heart
- Random House Kids Unplugs
- Take the Screen-Free Pledge.