Managing Screen Time During Summer Break

Education Week recently asked teachers and remote-learning experts for suggestions on how to balance screen time in the classroom. With summer approaching parents can apply the same principles to managing at-home screen time. Here’s what the experts had to say along with suggestions for how to incorporate their advice into your family’s summer routine.

  1. Remember that not all screen time is equal. A great benefit of online access is that kids can use the lazy days of summer to learn new skills and explore unique interests. Is astronomy your child’s passion? How about painting, graphic design, or woodworking? Does your budding athlete want to bend it like Beckham or shoot a three-pointer like Steph Curry? Whatever their interests there’s an age-appropriate tutorial one click away. Such high-quality screen time is a worthy alternative for endless social-media scrolling, which too often is the default for kids with idle time.
  1. Dont let tech blind you. Kids are subject to wanting the newest, shiniest tool in the tech toy box, but that doesn’t mean they have to have it. With hardware and software Innovation and upgrades coming fast and furiously, keeping up is both expensive and never-ending. Use the incessant “can I have” opportunities to teach values such as  moderation (you already have X, you don’t need Y), patience (We can talk about if if you still want it in a few weeks), and work-ethic (Let’s figure out how you can earn the money to buy it yourself).
  1. Think goal first, format second. To fill idle time or stave off boredom, remember that the screen is only one option. Work with your kids to create a menu of alternative options to fill the void. Divide the menu into short, medium, and lengthy activities, and include items they can do by themselves or with friends or siblings. Figure out what materials are required (crayons and paper, bats and balls, game boards and decks of cards, etc.) and stock up accordingly. 
  1. Divide free time into chunks. Allow for some screen time, but balance it with equal time devoted to off-screen activities. Encourage outdoor play, face-to-face socializing with friends (gaming doesn’t count!), or just catching up as a family, reflecting on the day’s activities and planning for tomorrow’s adventures.
  1. Consider listening. Audiobooks, podcasts, and recorded read-alouds are valuable tools for breaking up kids’ pixel-gazing time. 
  1. Dont forget handwriting and other old-school options. Rather than use digital media for emailing grandma, texting friends, keeping a journal, reading a book, encourage your kids to use pen and paper to write letters and make journal entries, and use a phone to actually speak to a friend. Plan a library outing to pick up hard-cover copies of their favorite books
  1. Stay on top of academic skills. Learning fractions by cooking a recipe or exploring nature and writing about it can get children off their computer screens while providing skill-building opportunities, and help to prevent “summer slide.”

These are a few ideas to get you started managing your child’s summertime screen use. Put your heads together with your kids and friends to come up with other options. Let us know your ideas so we can share them with others in the Smart Kids community! All parents are in the same boat when it comes to screens!

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