Summer is here and if I don't figure out a way to manage summer screen time, my kids will most likely turn into little zombies with mushy brains. As a work-from-home mom who's in the middle of writing a book and recording a podcast, I have to have a plan for this summer when the kids are home. Last summer I relied heavily on screens and while I know that the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages anything more than one hour of screen time (!), I felt backed up against a wall. I had deadlines and blog posts to write and kids who wanted to be entertained. This summer I have got to have a plan for managing summer screen time! Three weeks ago I was chatting with my podcast producer about this summer. As I was lamenting over what to do and how to get work done without having to use screens all the time she suggested a brilliant idea she did with her kids when they were younger. It's called Screen Vacation and while it feels silly to have to install something like a screen vacation into our summer routine, it's necessary for my family.
What is screen vacation?
The way it's going to work in our family is that the kids will not be allowed to be on screens until 3 p.m. I have put locks on their devices and set curfews on the Kindle Fires that we have. They know better than to get up in the morning and sneak TV because I workout at 6 a.m. every day and that means I'll know. Once 3 p.m. comes around they'll be given their Kindle Fires and will have access to the TV until 5 p.m. By that time my husband should almost be home so they'll get their screen time out of their systems before he gets home.
Why do I need to do screen vacation?
I don't know about your kids but mine are perpetually annoying me to get on their Kindles or watch TV. It's almost like they have no clue how to entertain themselves unless they're plugged into something. I'm sick of that. Gone are the days of running around the neighborhood with your friends and then coming home to maybe watch TV. Now kids have to be given ideas of how to play, what to play, and then they want you to entertain them. My mother didn't entertain my sister or me during summer vacation. Sure we had little outings planned but she made it very clear that it wasn't her job to tell us know what to do.
I'm managing summer screen time because I want my children to learn how to think and imagine and play. Technology is only going to continue to advance and that means our reliance on technology is only going to become stronger. I kind of need to teach my children how to do life without a screen attached to them or sitting in front of them. Studies have shown that children still need time to explore and play in the real world, a reliance on screens for entertainment rather than real life play and activity can increase, from HealthyChildren.org:
- Sleep problems (if there are screens in the bedroom)
- Problematic internet use
- Negative effect on school performance
- Risky behaviors substance use, sexual behaviors, self-injury or eating disorders. Exposure of teens through media to alcohol, tobacco use or sexual behaviors is associated with earlier initiation of these behaviors.
- Sexting and privacy and predators. About 12 percent of youth 10 to 19 years of age have sent a sexual photo to someone else.
Are there rules for screen vacation?
Other than the screen curfew and only being able to be on a device from 3 to 5 p.m., the other rule for managing summer screen time is that it's not my job to entertain them. Yes, that's right. I remember summers being full of playing outside with friends, riding bikes and making up elaborate games in our backyards for hours until our moms called us home. We have to get back to that. My parents did stuff with me but I didn't expect them to entertain me that's for sure. In fact, if I mentioned that I was bored my mom would put me to work. Maybe I'll do that this summer too!
Managing Summer Screen Time Tips
- Have a plan and discuss it. I've talked about this with my children at great lengths and they're expecting and ready for this summer.
- Give them a week to have their screens unlimited. The week after school gets out, my kids will have access to their screens whenever they want. (Except during meals and in their bedrooms at bedtime.) I'm not policing them and I can tell you this is probably the highlight of my son's summer as of right now.
- Understand that there will be times when the curfew needs to be adjusted. We're going on a road trip this summer to South Dakota and the drive is 12 hours. I'm not enforcing screen vacation during that drive.
- Plan things to do together. I bought a seasonal pass at a local manmade lake for the summer and I plan to do a lot of mornings there. I can relax and play with the kids in the water and they're entertained in an environment that's not at home.
- Be OK with a mess. I hate messes in my house but there will be rainy days and part of being a kid is playing and creating. I'm going to try my best to not be too obsessive of the mess that's created during our screen free hours.
- Listen to kid podcasts!
Wish me luck! I'm certain not every day will be perfect and there will be a learning curb for us because like I said, I've relied heavily on screens in the past but a change has to happen. What are you planning on doing for setting summer screen time limits?
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