Have a summer screen time strategy in place? If not, you might want to consider it. For many families, summer means way, way more hours glued to tablets, smartphones and televisions.
Just how much?
One third of the entire summer.
Yep. Groupon recently asked 1,000 parents about their screen-time plans for the summer months. Their answer? Approximately 35 days of summer. That same survey revealed that this summer, US kids will watch an average of 60 movies and log 150 hours playing video games.
Why the staggering numbers? For many parents, while school may be out, work isn’t. There are an estimated 15 million summer-time latchkey kids in the U.S. Aged 5-12, these children spend long stretches of time at home without parental supervision. What better way to pass the time than with endless hours of YouTube, Minecraft and social media?
Even for parents who are home during the summer months, however, managing how many hours are logged on devices isn’t easy. Or simple.
Three Strategies to Deal With Summer Screen-Time
Extending School Year Limits Into Summer: This may not be the easiest approach, but for some parents like KJ Dell’Antonia, it makes the most sense. Instead of rewriting her rules, the writer and work-at-home mom maintains the same limits for her four children.
Summer Screen-Time Break: It may sound insane to cut the screen-time cord in summer when kids can be at their most aimless, but child psychiatrist and author of Reset Your Child’s Brain, Victoria L. Dunckley, MD argues that it’s the best season for an all-out fast. Without the need to go online for schoolwork, summer is the perfect time to try a complete break with screens. Dunckley proposes a three-week fast to help children who are irritable, not sleeping well or have social difficulties. But take note, she says it’s far more effective when parents participate as well.
Unlimited Screen Time — Just As Soon as You’ve… Ann Kirby-Paine has a unique solution to keeping screen-time in check: Her kids must first complete a daily list of tasks. After that? It’s unlimited screen-time. What if they’ve completed it all by 8am? Simple, says Kirby-Paine. They are then “free to rot in front of the monitor until [their] eyeballs bleed.”
Keeping Tabs With Tickets: Carissa Houston uses a system of allocating six 30-minute screen-time sessions per week, to be used when her kids request. That includes educational apps, Wii, and online shopping. What doesn’t count on the clock: Researching information, such as Googling the definition of a word or concept. Patrick and Ruth Schwenk use a similar approach, with the exception that their kids can cash in any unused tickets.
Summer Screen Time Tips
Snap Less, Remember More
Want to remember that summer vacation? Parents and kids might be better off not documenting every moment with their smartphone. Research reveals that the more we lean on technology to “remember” events, the less we truly pay attention to what’s happening.
Listen, Don’t Look
Want to keep the kids occupied in the car without smartphones and iPads? Try listening to NPR’s new family podcast Wow in the World. Each episode explores different aspects to science, technology and wonders of the world.
Enjoy Screens Together
Researchers at Arizona State University discovered that parents and kids sharing the video game experience cultivated greater family bonding, learning and well-being. “Parents miss a huge opportunity when they walk away from playing video games with their kids,” says one of the study’s researchers, Elisabeth Hayes. “Often parents don’t understand that many video games are meant to be shared and can teach young people about science, literacy and problem solving.”
Another study shows that girls in particular benefit from shared screen time with mom and dad. Fascinating research from Brigham Young University has shown that tween and teen girls in particular benefit from playing video games with mom and dad. In a study of 11 to 16 year olds that involved 287 families, it was discovered that girls behave better, feel more connected to their families and have improved mental health when they co-play video games with parents. But the research came with a huge caveat: Those amazing benefits were only seen when the video games were age appropriate.