As the school year neared its end, your kids’ daydreams likely turned to summer fun and endless hours of…screen time.
No thoughts of tree climbing and fort building? No plans for bike rides and impromptu picnics? No swings, soccer, and Frisbee at the park?
Well, not so much. More than likely, their ideal summer includes hours left wide open for their phones, tablets, laptops, and gaming systems. And, sadly, for lots of kids, all that screen time seems too good to trade for summer sunshine and fresh air.
The truth is, beeps, notifications, graphics, texts, and videos are constantly calling out to your kids. Games and social media promise to draw them digitally deeper into more fun and adventure than anything offline.
Unless you do something about it.
Your kids need your help to say “no” to the screens and “yes” to offline fun. Here’s how to take the lead:
7 Ways to Manage Screen Time & Have Some Real World Fun
1. Set limits early on
With the long days of summer stretched out before you, asking your child not to fill them up with screens may seem like inciting a rebellion. Just remember, you’re in charge and regardless of how they complain, kids need and appreciate guidance. It’s okay to let them know that there is no texting after 8:00 pm or that the Wifi password will only be available between noon and 3:00 pm. They will adjust.
2. Lead by example
Your kids will probably fear missing out or being left out when you shut down the screens. To ease their panic, show them that you too can do more than screen-stare all summer.
They look up to you. Show them that you’re willing to turn off your screens too. Demonstrate restraint and self-control. Take back your summer together.
3. Schedule screen-free time
Make screen free time something to look forward to. Instead of starting the day with their phones, meet in the kitchen to make breakfast together and plan the day. Establish family time that includes board games or trips to the pool. Make mealtimes fun with conversation games and al-fresco dining. You can even get involved in your community by scheduling time to volunteer.
4. Challenge kids to cut the (charging) cord
Let your kids know that their chargers are unavailable for a certain amount of time. Their devices will actually be allowed to run down and be put away until further notice. Make it a contest to ease withdrawal. Be patient through the complaining, begging, and boredom, and allow imagination to make a comeback. Your kids just might surprise you!
5. Insist on 3-D play
It may be that your children only play at recess, in gym class at school, or on organized teams. Perhaps they just need help rediscovering real-world play.
Appeal to their sense of independence and desire to explore. Set them up outside with a water bottle or lemonade, a few snacks and invite the neighbor kids to stop by. Give them a few toys or balls, and just let them hang out outside. It’s even okay to reward them with 20-30 minutes of gaming time when playtime ends.
6. Choose a real-world adventure
Video games are appealing because they immerse kids in an exciting experience. Why not show your kids that adventure is where you seek it in the real world too?
Take your child through your neighborhood, community, or city. Try to see it with new eyes. Plan a day trip, go on long drives, sightsee. Engage in your surroundings and encourage your child to notice, smells, sounds, and people. Play the old game “I Spy,” take pictures and make a real photo book to share. The memories you make will be well worth the time spent.
7. Trade social media for socializing
Your kids, especially teens and pre-teens, believe their “friends” are online. They are much more likely to engage over their phones by text or social media than in-person. Summer is a great time to reconnect kids with the idea of face-to-face friendship.
Encourage your kids to meet friends at the park or mall. Buy the pizza and soda for an afternoon of hanging out. For little ones, plan playdates and get to know parents who share your vision of screen-free play. Show kids how much fun it can be to forgo solitary, screen time for laughter and friendship.
You Can Do It!
Managing their screen time may seem unreasonable, even unbearable, to your kids at first. Yet, if you stick to your digital boundaries and assert yourself firmly, you can show your kids that they are in charge of their time and relationships. Soon your whole family will start to see summer and technology in a whole new light.
Finally. praise your kids for being more productive and making the most of their technological timeouts. Then, give yourself credit for stimulating their summer brains without relying on so much internet interference. Have fun!