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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Life, unplugged

Jessica Wambach Staff writer

A national organization is again urging parents to spend a week without using their favorite appliance. No, the TVs can stay on. This time, they’re after the computer.

The PC-Turnoff organization is asking people across the country to turn off their computers today through Aug. 7 in hopes that they’ll realize the good things that can come from spending a little less time on the PC.

“As a group of concerned parents, we’ve seen that a lot of studies have come out recently that talk about the negative effects of extensive PC use by children,” said Joe Acunzo, a founding member of PC-Turnoff.

One study released in March by the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that on average, children ages 8 to 18 spend six and a half hours a day listening to music, using the computer, watching TV or involved with other forms of media. The computer is the medium with the fastest growing usage among kids, according to the study. PC-Turnoff supporters believe some of that time should be directed toward other activities.

Acunzo’s concern for his own daughter’s addiction to instant messaging sparked the idea for PC-Turnoff, he said.

After a failed search for software that he could use to limit his daughter’s time on the computer, he co-founded SoftwareTime in 2003, a company that creates programs that limit computer time. The positive response to the company’s products led Acunzo and a handful of other concerned parents to create PC Turnoff organization in April.

This is the first national PC turnoff movement, but it was inspired in part by a weeklong ban on another popular medium.

“TV turnoff week, they’ve done a great job for 10 years and they’ve done a lot of positive things for families,” Acunzo said.

But Acunzo isn’t suggesting parents phase out computer use in their homes year-round. Many of the organization’s leaders are in the technology industry, he said. They just want people to remember that instant messaging is no social substitute for face-to-face interaction and PC video games are no healthier than traditional video games.

“The goal is to try and get parents’ attention to really try to examine their children’s use of the computer,” Acunzo said. “Hopefully kids get more exercise, more time with the family, perhaps with their friends face to face.”

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