Too Much Tech: How To Manage Screen Time this Summer
With summertime freedom just around the corner, consider ways to ensure that technology is used safely and productively in your home.
Memorial Day brings the start of summer and, along with it, the seemingly endless expanse of days – and time – for children. A break from school offers ample time to explore and play outside, but also the opposite: plenty of potential hours glued to a screen while indoors. In this day and age, with ever-changing technology at kids’ fingertips, it’s hard to know how much technology is too much, what kind is best, and how to make the most out of the screen time to which your child will inevitably be exposed.
It may seem impossible, but there are ways that technology for your children can benefit not only them, but also your family. Recently, Mind Body Green laid out some easy ways to manage the technology your kids may be using…and also suggested certain apps to cultivate mindfulness, an idea that may seem incongruent when it comes to considering screen time. Here are their tips plus a few of our own:
-There are many apps out there that can track our mood, food intake, exercise and sleep patterns, all of which can be helpful tools for recognizing healthier living for ourselves, children, and families as a whole. They can also be helpful in teaching and promoting self-care for young ones.
-Another upside of technology is the endless array of educational programming. Help boost reading comprehension or times table memorization by finding apps and games that are not only fun and engaging, but also help strengthen literacy or math skills while school is out of session.
-If you’re aiming to be more intentional of the technology your family is using, apps like Moment and Checky can track the amount of time you use different kinds of devices, as well as how often you’re checking your phone. Simple instruments like this can help you and your kids be more mindful of how summer days are spent.
-Once you have an idea of how much screen time is happening in your home, consider taking a break or “day off” from technology and plan some fun, active activities outside the home. Knowing what times of the day seem to lend themselves to more tech use can also help you set basic rules: no phones at the breakfast/lunch/dinner table or while in the car, no stimulating screens before sleeping, etc.
-Encourage your children to use their devices and technology in shared rooms. This may prevent them from engaging in anything inappropriate and can also allow you to monitor their use a little easier. You can also encourage shared activities with your kids: watching movies or online videos, calling family and friends who live far away, listening to music, or playing online games together.
-Along the same lines of using technology in common rooms, try to sit down and actually watch the shows and movies your children are viewing. By simply being present alongside them, you may quickly realize that what they’re watching is not age-appropriate or educational.
-Finally, ask your children about the different ways they communicate and socialize online; this can also be a good way to discuss online safety, monitoring, and dangerous habits. The apps, social sites, and media our children are using are constantly evolving, so regular, simple check-ins and conversations about what they’re using – and how they’re using it – can make us parents feel less in the dark and a little more confident about how to steer them away from risky online behavior.
Just as summer lends itself to many outdoor enriching experiences for little ones, technology can also expand young minds and offer productive learning and socializing tools if used in the right ways. As parents, we can wax poetic about the way childhood summers used to be “in the good old days,” but – unless we’re aware of and realistic about the different times in which our children are living – it does no help to them and their development. Implementing little steps to address technology use in your home can ensure that all of the joys of summertime freedom – both outdoors and on a screen – can be enjoyed.