Are you happy with the amount of time your child spends on a screen? Are you pleased with how your son spends his summer break on the couch, in the air conditioning, racking up more kills in Fortnite? Are you okay with how much time your daughter spends scrolling through a world that you don’t understand?
If you answered “no” to any of those questions, then it’s time for a new game plan this summer.
This summer, be ScreenStrong™ by choosing to keep the benefits of technology, but delay the harm. Keeping the benefits means using technology to look up an instructional video to learn how to knit, play the guitar, or fix the vacuum cleaner. It can mean making a movie together, writing a story, or learning a foreign language. Delaying the harm means avoiding violent video games (such as Fortnite), gossip on social media, and sites that can lead to inappropriate content, including porn.
How do we do that? By finding screen balance and taking a low-tech approach when it comes to leisure activities.
I know that sounds rather lofty, but it’s more possible than many parents realize. In fact, my 14-year-old twin boys are experiencing that right now! We ditched the video games after their older brother dropped out of college due to his gaming addiction. I also learned that medical research says that adolescence is a very unhealthy window for social media.
Do you know what they do instead? They socialize with friends. In real life!
Recently, they used their bikes instead of social media to talk to friends. They biked around the neighborhood, pulled their friends out of their air conditioned homes, and invited them to hang out in our pool. It turned into a great afternoon of face-to-face socialization (something that not a lot of teens get anymore).
What we’re learning is that kids are thriving without summers spent on video games and social media. Some kids are even secretly excited about having their devices taken away. One mom told me recently that she had removed her son’s phone for a month and he asked her to keep it longer. He enjoyed not having it.
We know that parents are anxious and fear the words “I’m bored.” And, while boredom does have its benefits and can lead to the flow of creative juices, we also know that a game plan will help your team succeed.
Here are a few ways that you can replace leisure tech-time (video games, social media, app play, smartphone scrolling, etc.) with low-tech activities:
Plan. Plan. Plan.
Plan everything, even your down time. Without a plan the screens will win. Have a daily schedule; older teens especially need a routine.
Be social (in real life).
Prioritize spending time with friends. Team up with other families and have parents trade off being in charge one day a week. Don’t just think of this as a playdate for toddlers; this works for teens, too! For example, on my day to be in charge, I’m taking four teens to the local amusement park.
Summer is a great time to build life skills. Those are the things that will make it possible for your kid to become an adult and move out of your house. Eventually. So don’t skip assigning chores! Laundry, vacuuming, cleaning toilets, doing dishes, cooking, making a grocery list, caring for pets, and mowing are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to necessary skills your kids need to learn before moving out. Start young and don’t underestimate the tasks they are capable of (and should be) doing. Even toddlers can fold laundry.
Summer is a great opportunity for kids to explore their own interests and read about things that they wouldn’t be assigned in school. They may discover they love reading even more when they can choose the topic and the book. Take them to the library, subscribe to the newspaper and magazines, and encourage them to have their own book club with friends.
Give your child the chance to explore their imagination and be creative. Allow your child space to dream and create, visit a museum, watch a play, go to the symphony, take music lessons, encourage them to start a garage band with friends, or sign-up for art camps. Better yet, organize your own summer art camp in the backyard.
Kids need connections for healthy brain and emotional development, and one of their most essential connections is with you. Build those connections by spending time together as a family this summer. Watch a movie outside, sit around a fire pit, camp in the backyard, take a day trip, get ice cream on a whim, have family board game or ping pong tournaments, take a hike (without your phone!), or just sit around the dinner table together and talk. Think of one new tradition to establish this summer for your family. Points of connection don’t have to be expensive or intimidating, but they do require everyone being present.
Let’s give our smartphones and gaming devices a well-deserved vacation this summer! If you want more information on how to release your kids from the vice grip of technology and be a ScreenStrong family, then get your copy of our latest book “The ScreenStrong Solution: How to Free Your Child from Addictive Screen Habits.” This simple, step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of reclaiming your kids from digital devices so you can reconnect your family!
Photo Credit: Shutterstock