These are tough questions in a world with an ever-changing technology and social media landscape. One thing I tell every parent is establish healthy boundaries for your child and his screen time. With summer approaching, your child may be tempted to be online even more than usual. Don’t let this happen! Decide now what your screen time rules and boundaries will be to let this summer be as screen-free as possible.
Several years ago, when my kids were young, we turned off the T.V. at the beginning of summer and kept it off for the entire months of June, July, and August. This was before social media and smartphones when T.V. was the center of our kids’ lives.
I’ll be honest, the first two weeks of summer were miserable. We were so used to noise and distraction, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. But eventually, our kids got used to it. They began inviting friends over, we spent more time together as a family, and by the time September rolled around, they didn’t even want to turn the T.V. back on!
Take this as inspiration for your summer. What do you want it to look like? What do you want your child to experience? How would too much screen time take away from this? While I’m not here to tell you exactly what your child’s screen time rules should be this summer, I do have some tips as you’re thinking through your family’s rules and boundaries.
Don’t go cold turkey.
The trick is to not go completely screen-free, at least, not right at first. My family went cold turkey with T.V. watching, but smartphones are their own beast and many children who are addicted to them or to video games or to other devices could have a negative reaction to going screen-free right away, ruining your chance for a more unplugged summer.
Wean your children off his devices. Start with an hour less per day, or two hours less if you think he can handle it.
Remember, boredom is not the enemy.
It’s OK for your child to feel like she has nothing to do without her phone. Imagination and creativity thrive in boredom. It is good for kids to have to figure out what to do with their time. You don’t have to fill every screen-free moment for them. Give your child some space and see what she comes up with. She might surprise you.
Try a new device.
Traditional smartphones can be hard to monitor. That’s why I’ve been so impressed with something called the Gabb phone. The Gabb phone gives kids many of the bells and whistles of the smartphone but doesn’t allow them to download game apps or access the internet.
I trust the Gabb company because they put a child’s welfare first, as I do. They know kids are happier when they play outside more. They know their grades improve when they aren’t sucked into too much screen time, and they value real, in-person connection. Their phone frees kids up to have more of this in their lives. You can save $20 on your child’s new phone when you enter my promo code ‘MEGMEEKER’ during checkout.
Watch your own habits.
What are your social media and screen time behaviors? Are you constantly checking Facebook, texting friends, posting on Instagram? Your child will notice your behavior and follow suit. If you try to put limits on your child’s digital use but fail to put limits on your own, your child will not be motivated to stick to the boundaries you’ve put in place for him. Monitor your own behavior as much as your child’s.
Parents, you don’t have to have a perfectly screen-free summer. Just be sure to put some boundaries in place so it’s not a screen-full summer. You’ll be surprised to find how your child fills his time without his phone and you might just create some lasting habits that help the whole family be more present more and on your phones less.