Parenting comes with many challenges – potty training, convincing your child broccoli isn’t poison, and mastering the fine art of the diorama. But by far, one of the most significant challenges parents face is balancing screen time, particularly over the summer break.
We shouldn’t be too critical of our children, after all, how many of us take any chance we get to binge a season of our favorite shows on Netflix or constantly check our social media and email, and had Snapchat and YouTube been around when we were kids, we’d behave much the same way.
Too much of a good thing makes it no longer a good thing, so how do we balance screen time with time in the real world?
Be A Role Model
It’s cliché, but actions do speak louder than words, so if you want your child to spend less time staring at a screen set the example by putting down your phone and setting boundaries like a Device-Free Dinner.
Plan Family Activities
Summer means ample opportunities to get outside and play. Let your imagination run wild – go hiking, swimming, build a tree house or camp in the backyard. If heat and bugs aren’t your thing, try putt-putt, movies, or plan a family game night.
Set Device Free Zones
Just like the idea of a Device-Free Dinner, set rooms or times when screens are off limits. For example, no screens at the table, in the bathroom, or the car unless it’s a road trip.
Set a Timer
Let’s face it, going cold turkey is never going to last and your crew will likely mutiny, so a much better plan is to set time limits. You’ll know what works for your family, but set boundaries like no screens before breakfast or after eight pm, or cap their total amount for the day or the week. There are plenty of great apps for Android and iPhone to take the guesswork and prevarication out of the equation.
At the very least, make a rule of one screen at a time. If it’s movie night, no phones or tablets. That may be a harder one for parents than for kids if you’re sitting through Secret Life of Pets for the fourth time, but it’s important to lead by example.
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.