Summer season is here and kids are excited to take a much-needed break from school, catch up on sleep, and most likely spend hours upon hours on their digital devices. With more time on their hands come more opportunities for them to plug in and play video games, scroll social media, watch YouTube and Netflix all day long. Although spending time online can provide entertainment and give your kids a chance to connect with friends, limits need to be set before things get out of control.
Now is the time to set specific screen time rules for the summer months ahead. Even adults understand how easily our screens can suck hours of our time if we don’t put limits in place, so how on earth would our tweens and teens manage them without our help?
Before summer officially kicks in (And if it already did, then do this stat!), have a family meeting to discuss how the kids will be managing their screen time during these months. It’s important your kids are included in the conversation, so ask them to give their input and work together to set detailed rules that will help provide healthy expectations for the season. The key is to end up with a non-negotiable guide to follow for these mostly unstructured months.
Some ideas for your family screen time rules may include the following:
Kids must complete their responsibilities before they plug into their screens every day. This rule will help your kids manage their time more effectively and address one of their most special talents– procrastination. No access to their screens until their daily ‘to do’ list is done whether that be household chores, summer school work, or any other important responsibilities they are expected to complete that day. If you don’t trust that your kids will follow through with this rule while you’re gone, you can change the password to your WiFi each night and tell them they can have it when everything is completed.
Family meals and events are designated “screen-free” times. The slower more easy-going summer months often make room for more family time together. There are cookouts, celebrations, family reunions and special events that are often planned during this season. Make it a rule that no one is allowed on their devices during these family activities. You may want to have a basket or bowl to put everyone’s phones in at the door so you are assured that the family is disconnected from WiFi and connecting to one another instead.
Set a designated evening cut off time for all digital devices. Summer often allows for later bedtimes which means kids are probably staying up well into the night while probably plugged into the online world playing video games, watching Utube videos or Netflix series, and connecting on social media. Set a rule for all devices to be off every night at a specific time. Since these late hours are when most parents are sleeping, it might be a good idea to change that WiFi password before you go to bed so you are assured the kids comply with this rule.
Set up times for unplugged activities. Kids often spend much of their time at home during the summer months, and that leads to more media time. If they will be home for long stretches of time every day, set up a designated time frame for your kids to get offline and do something else for a few hours. Make sure you brainstorm activities the kids can participate in during this unplugged time based on their talents and interests. It’s also important to plan regular family outings that take everyone away from their screens.
Get outdoors and stay active. It’s easy for kids to lie around the house all day without going outside and staying active. Kids can look into some outdoor apps to increase their physical activity and take them on outside adventures. There are several different apps your kids can use for outdoor games, fitness goals, or nature adventures. The whole family can get involved too, with exploring wildlife, astrology, plants, insects, hiking trails, etc.
Use Apple’s Screen Time feature to manage your kid’s online activity. If you are concerned about what your tween or teen is actually doing on their digital devices, this is the app you need in order to track their online activity. The Screen Time feature will not only monitor all your kid’s online behavior, but you can also use it to set up control restrictions for all their media use. You can schedule downtime where the device will shut down for a specific amount of time during the day, so rule #4 can be enforced. Review daily and weekly reports that assess how much time your kid is spending online and which areas they might be spending too much of their time and when.
It’s easy to let summer fly by while your kids spend their days at home and much of their time online. Make sure you set some ground rules now so that their summer can have a good balance of spending time in the digital world and the real world too.