Tag Archives: summer

Balancing Screen Time During the Summer

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.

 Set Boundaries

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.


How Should Kids Spend Their Summer Vacation

By Tracey Dowdy

School’s out and those long weeks of summer break are looming large. What to do, what to do?

There are several factors that have no doubt shaped your plans – finances, child care, your child’s specific needs, and how you’d get everybody where they need to be when they need to be there. But, no matter whether your kids will be spending their days at Space Camp or Camp Mom, there are a few things you should consider.

Downtime is Important. Our children live in a busy, sometimes over-scheduled, world, and like us, are distracted by their screens. However, in order for our brains to process the barrage of information it receives every day, it needs unchallenged time, away from distractions and stimulation, and it needs adequate sleep. You may think that “mindless” video games offer enough downtime, but that’s not so. Gaming still requires the brain to anticipate obstacles and respond to the action in the game. Real downtime allows the brain the opportunity to store memories, remember newly acquired skills, and learning to focus.

Let them be bored. There are few phrases more annoying to a parent than the dreaded, “I’m bored.” But next time you hear it, don’t get irritated and don’t solve the problem for them. Children need to develop time management skills and how to solve their own problems. When you rush in with options and entertainment, you rob them of the opportunity to deal with uncomfortable feelings like boredom. Instead, encourage them to think through their options and make a choice. Think about times you’ve been on a long walk or had an aha! moment in the shower. That’s your brain creating neural pathways connecting experiences and memory with new information to create a solution, something that’s impossible without the emotional and cognitive space that downtime offers.

 Help them find their “flow.” Researcher Reed Larson has studied the development of motivation in children and teens, and he’s found that the key is finding that “flow.” When a child is engrossed in an activity that is both challenging and successful without being stressful, dopamine levels spike, which builds the brain’s motivational capacity, something that will come in handy when they face a challenge where they aren’t so successful.

Involve your child in the decision.  Obviously, they won’t necessarily get the deciding vote, but offering your child options while involving them in the process means they’ll be more accountable for their choices. It has the added benefit of teaching them that choices have consequences, good and bad, and that we have to live with the choices we make. It may be as simple as chocolate or vanilla ice cream, or as big as choosing which camp to attend, but either way, it’s a teachable moment.

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.


Distracted Driving: Time to Put Down That Phone!

By Tracey Dowdy

When I was a kid, family vacation meant driving for hours and taking the ferry to Prince Edward Island for a couple of weeks of camp. The biggest distraction for the driver was the constant
“stop touching me/stay on your side/I know I am but what are you?” bickering from the back seat and the occasional wildlife that would wander out on to the highway.

Not so today. Not that kids have miraculously stopped bickering – this isn’t a Disney movie – but with handheld devices and video screens built into the headrests, the biggest distraction is no longer coming from the backseat. Now it’s right there in the hands of the driver.

Although most of us admit distracted driving is dangerous, there’s a clear disconnect between acknowledging the problem and changing our behavior. With a staggering 74 percent of Americans admitting that they talk on the phone while driving, and the fact summer sees the highest incidence of teen accidents (7 of the 10 deadliest days for teen drivers fall between Memorial Day and Labor Day), it’s time to take a hard look at our driving habits.

Consider these statistics from DoSomething.org:

  • 10% of fatal accidents involving drivers under 20 were determined to be related to distracted driving.
  • 5 seconds is the minimum amount of time that a driver takes his eyes off the road while texting. If the car is traveling at 55 mph, that’s equivalent to the length of a football field.
  • Texting makes a crash up to 23 times more likely.
  • Teens who text while driving spend 10% of the time outside their lane.
  • According to AT&T’s Teen Driver Survey, 97% of teens agree that texting while driving is dangerous, yet 43% do it anyway.
  • 19% of drivers of all ages admit to surfing the web while driving.
  • 43 states, plus D.C., prohibit all drivers from texting.
  • 40% of teens say that they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone.
  • The most recent National Occupant Protection Use Survey finds that women are more likely than men to reach for their cell phones while driving.
  • According to 77% of teens, adults tell them not to text or email while driving, yet adults do it themselves “all the time.”
  • 9 in 10 teens expect a reply to a text or email within five minutes or less, which puts pressure on them to respond while driving.

Arguably the most distressing of those statistics is the belief by teens that adults text or e-mail while driving “all the time.” We are quick to criticize and accuse teen drivers of careless driving, but what examples are we setting? Maybe we’re not texting, but we’re taking a business call instead. Maybe we’re scrolling through a playlist or getting GPS directions from Siri. Maybe we’re like the woman ahead of me in traffic yesterday who was smoking, eating a doughnut, drinking coffee and checking her eye make-up.

Whatever we’re doing, let’s stop. Let’s put the phone down, put the coffee down, and fix our make up when we get to office. The risks and the consequences are simply too high.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology.