The pandemic forced many parents into screentime management Bootcamp. We learned quickly that more hours at home require more intention in managing family technology. The exact purpose holds true for summer. Before things get too crazy—vacations, camps, and a revolving door of friends—a priority might be putting a screentime plan in place.
Add to the summer equation that many parents are still on remote or hybrid work schedules, and the need for a summer screentime plan becomes even more important.
But first, what’s the cost of just winging it with screentime this summer? Doing so could harm your child both emotionally and physically. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children spend an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, such as televisions, computers, phones, and other electronic devices. Now that summer is here, we can assume that number will increase.
Balancing your child’s screentime is also a safety issue. As the summer ticks on, boredom can lead to more time online, which can open the door to threats such as cyberbullying, self-esteem and body issues, risky behavior, and connecting with strangers.
Keep in mind that every family’s summer screentime balance plan will be different depending on family schedules and children’s ages. Not sure where to begin? The AAP has an excellent, customizable Media Plan that includes a Screen Time Calculator. The guide will help you design a plan based on the ages of each child in your family.
6 Tips to Help You Balance Screentime
- Inventory Activities and Discuss Limits. Bring the whole family into the screen time discussion. What does an average day look like in your home? What activities can each person dream up outside of television, gaming, or social media? Where are the daily windows where consistent family time can happen? What kind of limits would be ideal? Discuss ways to keep one another accountable and a fun way to track success and consequences.
- Have plenty of non-screen activities ready. One way to keep kids off their screens, is offering them interesting options that outrank what’s happening on their devices. Consider, as a family, creating a list of at-home and on-the-go activities. Consider a trip to the lake, the beach, or a local museum. You might learn a new craft or pick a home project to complete (a bedroom makeover) together. Maybe try your hand at making pasta from scratch or growing your own vegetables. Activities don’t have to be pricey; often, simple is better. Whatever your list contains, remember: An idea is a dream without a real plan and taking real time to make it happen.
- Know where they go, what they see. As you know, at McAfee, we are front-line advocates of family filtering software. The content your kids consume this summer matters. Understanding the social networks and apps your kids frequent is key to keeping them safe this summer. The time and effort you spend establishing screen limits don’t matter much if the content your child views isn’t age-appropriate. A few questions to help assess content:
- Is the content age-appropriate? Are the apps my child uses interactive and learning-based or mind-numbing, or even risky?
- Do my family’s technology habits require filtering software to help block inappropriate websites?
- Are the privacy settings on social media and gaming accounts set to restrict what strangers can see and who can send a direct message to my child?
- Maintain a device curfew. Just because it’s summer, doesn’t mean anything goes. Consider keeping many of the same device rules in place. A device curfew in the summer months is more critical since kids like to take their devices to bed and scroll or text into the wee hours.
- Make sure they know why. This is a step some parents unintentionally may skip. Even if you find yourself repeating the ‘why’ of screen limits to your kids, make sure they understand you aren’t being random with the rules. Let them know that it’s a proven reality (studies show) that excessive screentime has an array of emotional and physical consequences that you aren’t willing to allow into your family.
- Step into their world. Have you ever thought of picking up that game controller and playing your child’s favorite game with them? It’s a simple gesture that could build amazing bridges. Not only could it help you understand their digital routines and communities, but it would also open the door for consistent online safety discussions. If your child spends most of their time on TikTok or Snapchat, ask them to show you around the apps. Be teachable and open to their favorite online activities. (One of my personal mottos is that as a parent I must make every effort to be teachable if I expect my kids to be reachable)!
One mom on Facebook recently shared a powerful reminder that, as parents, we only have 18 summers with our kids before—poof—they are grown. She also shared an inspiring visual reminder. She keeps a clear jar with each of her children’s names on it in plain view. Inside each jar, she places 18 colorful tiny pom-poms. She subtracts one pom pom each year on their birthday. As the pom poms visually decrease, it reminds her to make the most of her time with each child. Here’s hoping your summer is packed with less screentime and more moments that make each pom pom count.