By Denise Lisi DeRosa, Founder Cyber Sensible, LLC
The lazy days of summer can be a much-needed break from the busy routine of the school year for kids. Unfortunately for parents, summer can become a battle to keep kids from getting swallowed up by their technology – Netflix, Xbox, Instagram, Snapchat, Pokémon Go and on and on. So, how can families balance tech use and keep free time from becoming nothing but screen time? Here’s my advice.
No one wants to see their kids do nothing but lounge inside binge-watching TV or spending hours on end playing Xbox but we also need to adjust our expectations for the summer. Think ahead to what your kids will be doing over these months with camps, travel, beach, or pool. They may still be pretty busy but for any free weeks you may want to allow them a little more leeway with their use of tech. Just don’t let it get out of hand. Loosen the reigns without breaking all the rules. Keep some limits in place without discussion, for example no devices at family meals and devices off for sleep.
To avoid the constant nagging or heated argument, set some expectations upfront for screen time use. Decide on some guidelines and boundaries together. Really allow your kids to have some input in this process so they are invested in the agreement. Also, remind them that screen time limits will be updated again once the new school year starts.
So you planned a great beach getaway but rain and thunderstorms have you stuck inside? Allow some extra Netflix or Xbox playing when the weather is not cooperating with best-laid plans. Have some fun indoor activities on hand as well such as board games, puzzles or some creative crafts to offer some choices away from screens. Make sure everyone (including parents) knows when the sun returns you expect them to head back outside to enjoy the weather and the devices will be left inside.
Make sure that all of your privacy and safety settings remain up to date and set appropriately for each child. This will give you some peace of mind so you do not need constant hovering over their shoulders. For your young teens that may be exploring cyber space more on their own, it is really important that they know how to set and use the proper privacy settings for their own safety. Review these together ahead of time. If you need some help with these settings, book an Online Safety Workshop for you and your child.
Idle hands can make for poor choices and it is too easy for kids to over share on social media or for inappropriate posts to be sent impulsively. So with more free time it may be wise to review online safety lessons. Set the boundaries and expectations clearly for appropriate sharing and behavior on social media and beyond. Emphasize a few key points: don’t share personal information on public platforms, treat others with respect, keep online friends to real life friends, keep private parts private, don’t share passwords, think before posting, and know how to block and report abusive behavior.
It is also important for parents to embrace some technology in order to connect with their kids. For example, you could create summer song playlists to enjoy together, binge watch some shows on a rainy day, have a movie night, or play a family video game tournament. It is important to model appropriate appreciation and enjoyment of technology as much as it is to model times without devices.
All of this can be overwhelming at first. There are some great products designed to help parents with online safety. I really like Family Zone because their full-service solution provides busy parents the support they need to keep their families safe online: setting time limits, restrictions on access to unsafe content, and Cyber Experts like me to help you stay up-to-date on the popular games and apps kids are using. Take advantage of the next few weeks to prepare a summer screen time plan, and enjoy the time off – inside and outside!
You can listen to more of my Summer Time Screen Time advice on the Digital Parent Podcast.