The Challenge of Summer and Screen Time

For some of us, this might be your kids 1st week of summer vacation and you are basking in the freedom from hectic schedules, the stress of homework, and sleeping a little later in the mornings. For others, this might be the 3rd or 4th week of summer and the thrill of freedom might be starting to wear thin at times. While I love the opportunity to hop on the bikes with my daughter at the drop of a hat or spend the day at the pool, I also worry about the abundance of free time on my kids’ hands. I see this translate into more time with phones in their hands and iPads at their sides.

How do we manage summer with all the pros of freedom, sun, and fun and all the cons of potentially more screen time? How do we avoid the verbal conflicts of ‘put your phone down’, ‘stop texting’, and ‘how long have you been watching Netflix’? Here are a few suggestions that might help manage screen time and phone usage this summer in a healthy way.

Set limits and be consistent in enforcing them.

Think about how much screen time is appropriate for your child. Some families like to measure this on a daily basis, while others like to measure it on a weekly basis. Regardless of what you decide is appropriate, be consistent in enforcing it across the summer including time on vacation with long car rides. One of the great byproducts of this is that kids will learn how to manage their time which is a great lifelong skill to develop. Another suggestion in setting limits that might be helpful is to let your child collaborate on the limits and rules. Have a discussion about how much is appropriate and how it will be measured and tracked. If your child feels like he had a voice in this, he may show less resistance to the limits and rules.

Use technology to enhance your child’s passions.

My daughter loves to bake. A few summers ago, I said that she needed to write over the summer. This did not go over well at all. ‘Mom, I am not doing school work during the summer!’ I get it. I can’t blame her. But research shows that kids lose so much ground over the summer if they don’t do anything. I suggested that she create a blog around baking. She loved this idea and was really excited to bake and then WRITE about it. The writing, however, was done on a WordPress site. She has continued to keep up the site and expand it. This summer, she has already overhauled her website and has been writing blog entries. Technology is not only feeding her passion but it has also been a great way to intersect education with technology. And the best part? Absolutely no badgering, nagging, or fighting over summer homework!

Read a book together that involves challenges of online activities and social media.

Let’s face it, these are tough issues and issues that kids face on a daily basis. They are difficult topics for kids and parents to talk about but yet there are so many unanswered questions and slippery slopes to navigate. There are some good Young Adult, fiction books that are good reads for both your middle/high schooler as well as for parents. Read them at the same time and talk about the issues and challenges. Form a small book group with your child’s friends and parents. This is a great way to get your child engaged in the book as well as hear other parents’ thoughts and ideas. Here are a few books that I recommend:

  • Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner
  • Girl Online by Zoe Sugg

Keep busy with activities your child loves.

Remember, there was life before Instagram, YouTube, and Netflix. Your child might not realize this, but it is true. Sometimes kids forget that there are things that they love that do not involve a screen, but sometimes the screen is the quickest and easiest solution to boredom. There are camps, classes, day trips, swimming pools, parks, books, bikes, and so many other things that are fun during the summer and sometimes not available during the school year. My daughter is attending a pottery camp this week and loves it! Another suggestion is to have your child research a day trip or sites to see on vacation. Yes, the iPad can be used to do the research, but it is being used in a productive way.

Never discount the power of bartering for screen time.

I love nothing better than a good negotiation. Do these chores and the reward is an hour of screen time. Read for an hour and you can watch Netflix for 30 minutes. Screen time can be used as the carat to motivate your child to do the things that are normally a fight to get accomplished. Never discount the power of brokering a great deal.

Schedule tech free time for the entire family.

This is a practice that I highly recommend for all families all year round (I blogged about previously.) The beauty of summer is the lack of schedules and running around. However, this can also result in the loss of some fundamentally sound family practices. Make sure that you find some time throughout the summer for everyone to put their technology down for a few hours or a day or even for an entire vacation. The days are longer and there is so much to do outside as a family. I love this time of year!