Check in with Mansfield parks for screen-free family time

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Ah summer, the season of water sports, watermelon and…WiFi?

Phones, tablets, televisions and consoles have replaced floats and kick balls on many kids’ summer essential list, much to the chagrin of parents everywhere. But going tech-free is a daunting and often unrealistic task for everyone, and it’s hard to find a happy medium of moderation.

Turns out, that discovery might be right around the corner in the form of a swing or trail. Starting this summer, Mansfield Parks & Recreation is encouraging families to check in to one of their award-winning parks for some simple, free and easy screen-free time together.

“It’s a digital world, and we’re all plugged in and connected 24/7,” said Ann Beck, marketing & communications manager for Mansfield Parks & Recreation. “But sometimes those connections to the outside world are keeping us from making a more meaningful connection with the most important people in our lives. We certainly don’t expect anyone to go off the grid completely. We’re just trying to help busy families find a balance, and we think our parks are the perfect way to accomplish that.”

With recent expansions to the department’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, all of the 16 individual Mansfield parks now have a location established for visitors to “check in” on social networks. Through videos, photos and articles, the parks and recreation department is encouraging visitors to “Check in” at the park then “Unplug” and enjoy the visit with their friends and family.

“We love to see everyone out in the parks and sharing the fun they’re having with their online followers, so we’ve made it easier and more fun to do so with the new location pages,” said Matt Young, director of parks and recreation. “It’s a great way to spread the word about our award-winning parks system and maybe introduce a new park to someone who hasn’t been there before.”

The new campaign isn’t anti-technology, Beck said, but rather takes advantage of something people are already doing in their daily lives.

“It’s an amazing tool to keep people connected,” she said. “We’re just suggesting you check in, share a selfie, invite your friends and so on, then put the phone away to put in some real “Face Time” with the people you truly care about.”

The campaign includes some in-person events at parks over the summer, with Pop-Up Rec Centers offering kids a variety of tech-free games and entertainment while they enjoy the park. In addition, future online articles and social media posts will offer parents tips on how to limit or regulate screen time, ideas for play and more.

“The parks have an amazing ability to connect,” Beck said. “Not only literally connecting our city, as the Walnut Creek Linear Trail does as it moves from east to west across Mansfield, but connecting our residents. Parks offer a common ground for people of all ages and backgrounds to come together, whether it’s over a nature hike, while pushing kids on swings, during a fitness class at the activities center or just walking the family dog.

“With parks, we can bring people closer to each other and the world around them,” she said. “It’s a wireless connection you just can’t find anywhere else.”

For more updates or to see a map of nearby parks and find a location you can check in to, check out Mansfield Parks & Recreation Department on Facebook.

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