For some kids, summer means getting on the computer and not getting off until September. And even though a lot of parents relax their screen limits over the break, allowing a full-on hibernation is just not gonna happen. And it shouldn’t. Kids need to get outside, of course. But they also need to stretch themselves in ways that they can’t during the school year — and that no app, game, or streaming TV show, no matter how educational and meaningful, can give them.
The slide into the summer-screen abyss often happens innocently, before parents even catch on. Your kid starts streaming “Star Trek: The Next Generation” on Netflix — and then won’t leave the house until he’s binge-watched every episode. Or maybe they’re hooked on Minecraft, Roblox, or another play-as-you-go game that provides endless learning opportunities — but turns out to be just … endless.
As you’re mapping out your summer, don’t ban screen devices entirely. Not only do they offer entertainment, but they also offer learning opportunities and a chance to stay in touch with friends. Set reasonable limits that allow for family time and other important activities, and incorporate media and tech in ways that bring the family together. Try these ideas:
—Create a family media plan. Sit down with your kids and work out a weekly plan that includes activities such as camps, trips, and events as well as media and tech time. If you’re traveling, talk about whether to bring devices and when and how much they can be used. Use the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Family Media Plan Tool and Media Time Calculator to create a customized schedule.
—Want Wi-Fi? This requires a little effort but it’s worth it. Every night before bed, change your home Wi-Fi password. In the morning, leave a note for your kids that lists their chores and responsibilities for the day. When they’re finished with the stuff they need to do, they can have the day’s password.
—Tell ghost stories every night. Combine the summer tradition of ghost stories around the campfire with the proven benefits of summer reading, and you have a win-win. We guarantee your kids will be happy to ditch the devices for their nightly spooky-story fix. Look for some great ghost story books, or feel free to make up your own. You’ll have to improvise on the campfire.
—Nix devices at meals. During the school year, it makes sense that kids would occasionally need devices at the table to finish homework. But summer’s different. Use device-free-dinners to bond in a way that you don’t always have time for when you’re rushing to get schoolwork done and put the kids to bed at a reasonable hour.
—Get outside … with apps. Some apps let you have your cake and eat it, too. From nature adventures to stargazing to geocaching to physical fitness, the app-outdoor combo provides inspiration for family fun.