Are you ready to throw the video games and smartphones out the window?
This is definitely not the summer you had in mind. If you’re like many families, by the middle of summer, you’ve hit a wall with the screen obsession in your home. Summer vacation is supposed to be a time for family fun. But as the designated Screen Cop, what you’re experiencing right now is far from fun.
This is how the story goes.
Your summer starts off with wonderful potential and plans—a family reunion, a lazy vacation at the lake, lots of summer reading, plans to start a new interest or rekindle an old hobby, and high expectations to limit screen time. Realizing that summer is a risky time for screen overuse, you don’t want to repeat the endless hours of Fortnite and YouTube videos from last summer. You never envision your summer with kids sprawled all over the house, attached to a screen in every room. But it’s happening again. As the outdoor temps are ramping up, your good intentions are wearing down. Your kids are logging four, five, even six hours a day on their screens. They fill every spare minute with mindless screen entertainment. And they will pay the price when they have to jump back into the routine of school.
How did this happen?
It happened because your kids crave low-effort, high-reward activities; schedules are more relaxed; screens relentlessly pursue our kids’ attention; and you are tired. You are stepping over dirty dishes in their bedrooms from all-night game sessions and tripping over piles of dirty laundry you asked them to bring downstairs. You’re becoming frustrated and angry. You’re not enforcing the household chores and yard work, and you’re still cooking all the meals. You’re tempted to just give in to the screen-time bully—but don’t do it! It is your job as a parent to rescue the rest of the summer. And we’re here to help.
How do you prevent the summer screen-time black hole? You do what every seasoned screen-savvy parent coach does: You remove the screens. Yes, put that video game on a long vacation and remove it from the house. If your kids still have smartphones, limit them to 30 minutes a day and strictly enforce this. Trust me, it may be the only way that your child will be forced to pick up a baseball bat, a Frisbee, art supplies, and yes, even a good book. More than likely, these beneficial activities won’t happen if your kids are plugged into their leisure screens the rest of the summer.
How do you stop it?
Remember that every successful coach needs to refresh his game plan periodically. You must structure your child’s downtime activities. If you don’t, your kids will default to their screens. The screen battle in your home is lost in the nooks and crannies of your day. By structuring downtime, you can get a handle on it and give your child the open door to try new activities. Screens should never be the go-to activity.
Here is a summary of activities that will help your kids become ScreenStrong and develop other interests and life skills:
- Fishing: read about fishing, research fishing gear, find friends and go fishing
- Board game night: either with family or board game tournaments with friends, organize board game tournaments at school and in the neighborhood
- Backyard: fire pit, backyard movies with projector, grilling out
- Bike rides: ride dirt bikes on trails, scout out trails, join or start a cycling team
- Sports: baseball, basketball, tennis, Frisbee golf
- Music: start a garage band, practice singing to try out for a school musical
- Cooking: make a pizza with friends, learn how to grill, make a favorite dessert
- Home management: organize and clean the garage, organize the tool cabinet, the spice cabinet, books in the bookshelves, family scrapbooks, and family movies
- Reading: read a book series, news magazines and newspapers, start a book club with friends
- Running: get ready for cross country at school, practicing for track at school, run with your running buddies
- Puzzles: keep hard jigsaw puzzles out for family to work together, Sudoku puzzles, crossword puzzles, brain teasers
- Social time: have friends over for Friday fun nights, cook pizza and play board or card games with friends
- Yard projects: mowing, edging, weeding, planting a garden, chopping wood
- Camping: family camping, backyard camping with friends
- Job: lawn maintenance, babysitting, life-guarding, fast-food server
- Decorating: bedroom, fireplace mantel (with seasonal themes), front door
It’s not too late!
If you want to rescue the rest of your summer there is still time. Decide to make the next two weeks completely screen-free for your kids (read The ScreenStrong Solution for tips). Then find a quick last-minute family trip or outing that will give your children, even older teens, some solid summer memories. A trip to visit a relative, a last-minute trip to the beach, camping at a local campground will even work. It does not have to be an elaborate vacation, just a screen break to reset their brains for the beginning of the school year and fit in some much needed family time. Remember, deep down your kids want time with you more than their screens. You have the power to turn the summer around and make it the best summer yet!