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South Florida organization challenges parents: Put down your cellphones

Early Learning Coalition wants parents to 'Unplug and Connect'

Adrian Alfonso, Early Learning Coalition of Miami/Monroe board chair, and daughters, Hailey and Emma, play a game.
Adrian Alfonso, Early Learning Coalition of Miami/Monroe board chair, and daughters, Hailey and Emma, play a game.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Can you put down your digital device? A South Florida organization is challenging you to do so. 

As part of its "Unplug and Connect" campaign, the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe, a nonprofit that funds and manages quality early education programs, is calling on parents to spend more, undivided time with their children.

"The increased use of mobile devices by parents has led young children to miss out on valuable, one-on-one adult interaction and taken time away from the very kinds of family activities that stimulate developmental growth," said Adrian Alfonso, board chair of the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe.

Alfonso is walking the talk. He's not only spearheading the effort; he's accepted the challenge. 

The CPA and divorced dad signed a petition to unplug from his cellphone and connect with his two daughters, 6-year-old Emma and 5-year-old Hailey, during dinner time.

Adrian Alfonso, Early Learning Coalition of Miami/Monroe board chair, at a family game night with daughters, Hailey (left) and Emma (right).
Adrian Alfonso, Early Learning Coalition of Miami/Monroe board chair, at a family game night with daughters, Hailey (left) and Emma (right).

"Unplug and Connect" is designed to have parents engage their children in conversation, signing and reading activities. Additionally, the campaign promotes parents as their children's first teacher.

Research shows that reading just 15 minutes a day with a child maximizes brain development and kindergarten readiness. Nearly 85 percent of a child's critical brain development occurs by age 5, which makes one-on-one interaction with parents, coupled with access to quality early education, extremely valuable during this timeframe.  

"Our hope is that by taking the step to sign the petition, parents will be more cognizant of their screen time around children and make a real effort to set aside their digital devices at home," said Evelio C. Torres, president and CEO of the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe.

Parents can pledge to "Unplug and Connect" by visiting www.unplug.elcmdm.org. At the site, parents can also gather tips and ideas on simple, everyday moments and ways in which they can connect with their children, such as meal, bath and playtime


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