Summer vacation is just around the corner. For children it typically means freedom from the day-to-day routine of school. However, for parents the words “summer vacation” tend to conjure up a dilemma: how to make sure devices and screens don’t fill every waking minute of every day for two months.
Too much screen time has indeed been linked to sensory overload, lack of sleep, diminished ability to recognize emotions and even genuine addiction. On top of that, by keeping themselves glued to their screens, your kids may be missing out on many of the summer pastimes that have marked childhood since time began, from going to the beach, exploring the neighborhood with their friends to simply dealing with being bored.
In limiting screen time for kids, you are working to create a healthy “play diet” that balances many types of play. You can keep screen time as part of this play diet, while also ensuring your kids get in some social, physical, unstructured, and creative play.
But how to achieve this balance?
Here are some tips for limiting screen time while helping your kids enjoy a fun and memorable summer. And remember: success comes when parents enforce the family rules while demonstrating by by example.
Tips for Limiting Screen Time in Summer
Kids these days use their devices for everything: research for school projects, texting with friends, letting us know they’re safe when they’re out, as well as for gaming and consuming media. Yet kids need to spend time outdoors or reading books, or simply just thinking.
However, it can be difficult to set and then reliably and consistently enforcing rules. As with most everything else in life, developing a game plan can help pave the way for success.
Tip 1: Be Realistic
“Forbidden fruit is the tastiest,” says Lucy Jo Palladino, a clinical psychologist and author of Parenting in the Age of Attention Snatchers. Completely banning screen time may simply double the desire of your kids to get online.
Instead, be realistic: devices are a part of everyday life for kids. Accept that fact, and create a flexible plan that manages screen time.
Tip 2: Start With an Endpoint
Negotiate the length and amount of screentime with your kids ahead of time. Either set firm time limits, or limit screentime to the duration of a specific program. That way, one show won’t flow into the other, and you can avoid commercials.
Because most games don’t have built-in endings (and are, in fact, designed to make kids play as long as possible), set a timer or some other cue that says “time to stop.”
Tip 3: Help Kids Balance Their Day
Kids need guidance from you on a daily plan that includes a little bit of time for everything. Kids whose parents make an effort to limit media use spend less time with media than their peers do, according to a study. As parents, it can be easy to nag kids to try to get them to do things, but this will not necessarily work with limiting screen time.
Instead, it’s best to work on a concrete plan that structures activities throughout the day. This gives kids a sense of predictability, and also lets them know what your expectations are. They can also more easily refrain from turning to devices when bored by focusing on some other activity.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ worksheets to create a family media plan that can help you and your kids balance their day.
Tip 4: Walk the Talk
If you want to make sure your kids reduce screen time this summer, it’s important to model behavior. It’s tempting for adults to keep reaching for your phone to check email, texts, Facebook, or the news. But your kids will be the first to call you out for not “walking the talk.” Plus, they’ll pick up habits from you.
Model the media behavior, and enjoy your summer, too!
Why Not Take a Family Vacation in Turks and Caicos?
If you want to make sure your kids have plenty of things to do besides stare at a screen, why not plan a family vacation in Turks and Caicos? Check out our blog post 5 Fun Activities In Turks and Caicos to get some ideas about what to do while you’re here.