Summer’s here!!! Mornings at the park, family bike rides, afternoons at the pool, and lots of free time…or is that SCREEN time?
I often get asked by parents how to manage screen time during those long summer days. And while we often hear about the dangers of screen use (so yes, set those parent restrictions on your devices), the new expert advice is simply to use screen time INTENTIONALLY. This summer, rather than screens being the “go to” activity when our kids are bored, put some structure on their use with screen time built into their schedule. Teach them to transition on and off their device by designating a start and end time. Help your kids think about their use. For example, ask How are you going to use it today? Are you going to play a game? Which game? How are you doing in the game? Will you be on with your friends? What is a new thing you could do on your device today?
Encourage your kids to find other uses for screens. There are great Apps out there. Kids can write and illustrate a storybook, sing and record a song, take pictures on a walk, or around the house and make it into a story. They can of course research an interest, find videos of cool stuff (check out YouTube videos of what an eagle sees in flight), or visit far away places on Google Earth. Summer is also a great time to do family activities with screens. Take the iPad or cellphone out at night with a star chart App and identify stars (even the ones on the other side of the world!), add a digital microscope and look at the world from a different point of view. Screen time then becomes something more than “an activity I do alone in my bedroom”. Check out www.commonsensemedia.org for more creative ideas. Another idea is to consider what your older child enjoys about their screen time and find a “real life” activity that offers that. For example, are they into MInecraft, then try woodworking, or other building projects, or go caving! Do they like exploring fantasy games? Then try geocaching with them, hikes in the woods . Are they into shooting games? Then learn archery together, get out to do laser tag or paintball. And, regardless of age, balance that screen time with activities out in nature to offset the effects of staring at a screen!
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