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How Long Can You Go Without Picking Up Your Phone?

Take the UNICEF Tap Project challenge and help provide clean water

By Tracey Dowdy

It should come as no surprise that most of us are at least mildly addicted to our phones. What used to be only in the movies is now part of our daily lives, though I’m still waiting for my hoverboard, Doc Brown.

Now UNICEF (The United Nations Children’s Fund) is capitalizing on that addiction in the most ingenious of ways by challenging you to put down your phone for at least 10 minutes to give a child clean drinking water for a day.

With a presence in almost 200 countries and territories, UNICEF’s global influence goes beyond education and child rights to meeting basic human needs. According to the UNICEF home page, “768 million people around the world do not have safe, clean water to drink” and “2.5 billion people don’t have access to a proper toilet.” As a result, every day, 1,400 children die from diseases directly linked to unsafe water or a lack of basic sanitation.

Here’s the challenge: Put your phone on a flat surface; for every ten minutes you don’t pick up your phone, UNICEF Tap Project donors and sponsors will fund one day of clean water for a child in need. The longer you resist picking up your phone, the more donations will be made. You quite literally do nothing to contribute.

Of course, it’s harder than it sounds. According to a statistic that appeared while I did the challenge, the average time participants were able to go without picking up their phones was 50 minutes 48 seconds.

When the challenge begins, a countdown screen appears that scrolls facts about water and social media. For example, when I hit the 3:19 mark, I was informed that 13,541,580 texts had been sent in the time I hadn’t been using my phone. At 7:52, 538,194,255 emails had been sent.

Technically, you can still use your phone – you’re reading the texts as they appear and you can capture screenshots – but the challenge is to keep you from picking it up or accessing social media, while at the same time gaining perspective and contributing to a worthy cause.

So, put down your phone and pick up the challenge. You might just save a life.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, Ontario. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology.

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