Balancing Summer Screen Time

By Tracey Dowdy

Ask almost any parent and they’ll tell you one of the greatest challenges they face today is finding a balance for screen time. Too little and they fall behind their peers, too much and they get lost in the virtual world and miss out on the real world around them.

Screen time isn’t all bad. It helps your kids stay connected to friends who don’t live nearby, and the multitude of online summer camps and fun, educational games can help students avoid the dreaded brain-drain that seems inevitable over the summer.

These tips will help you help you and your child find a balance between virtual and real-world adventures this summer.

Model the behavior you want to see. That hits close to home, doesn’t it? If you spend family dinners checking your phone or you stare at your screen when you’re out for a walk with the family, you’re setting a double standard. Be intentional about screen-free time for the whole family.

Give them options. Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? Take a day to play at the park or the beach, go on a hike, explore a museum or a farm, take a cooking class together, or paint some pottery – the list of possibilities is endless. Check your community bulletin boards for summer day camps or family fun days, and check your local library for summer reading initiatives and family events.

Help them be entrepreneurs. If they’re too young for a regular summer job, help them find creative ways to earn some summer-fun money. Perhaps they can earn an extra allowance by going above their regular chores and clearing out the basement, mowing the grass at home or for the neighbors, opening a lemonade stand, pet sitting, dog walking, or even babysitting or working as mother’s helper. Encourage them to think about what they’d like to do and work together to find outlets that match their skills. At the risk of sounding like your grandfather, it’s never too early to learn the value of a day’s work.

Summer is a great time to volunteer together. Communities often need volunteers to help clean up a park or neighborhood or carry out other community related activities. Depending on the child’s age, they can volunteer at a hospital, senior center, animal shelter, or homeless shelter. Look for opportunities in your neighborhood. Perhaps there’s an elderly neighbor who could use help with yard work or simple household chores.

The key is to be creative: What works at my house may not be as effective at yours. What are your tips for balancing screen time with your kids?

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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