Rather than grapple with your kids all summer long about how much time they’re spending hunched over devices, here are some general guidelines on electronics you can tweak to fit your family and schedule.
Summer is finally here! The kids are out of school and enjoying the expanse of long days stretching out before them and no schoolwork to clutter up their imaginations. But all too often, kids will take the easy way and gorge on a steady diet of video games, TV or YouTube shows, texting and surfing the Internet on tablets, laptops and smartphones. With electronic devices so portable, kids (and adults) even take them to the beach, on vacation, and outside.
What can you do to counter the allure of electronic devices and balance their desire to be online with the necessity of electronic-free time in the great outdoors? Here are eight suggestions on how to manage your child’s electronic usage this summer–without becoming an online cop.
Have specific times for device usage, rather than an overall usage limit. In other words, rather than say the kid can have three hours on devices per day, say he can get on only between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. This will cut down on you having to monitor how long they’ve been on, thus downsizing the number of arguments you’ll have with them.
Let them “earn” device time. This summer, I’m giving my middle and high schooler a list of things they must do each day before they can get online, such as their daily chores, at least a half hour of exercise, and some sort of meaningful activity (like work on some of the badge requirements for their scout group).
Install parental control apps, etc. Even though you know your kid, it’s smart to lock down any inappropriate content as much as possible. For example, we’ve put a code on Amazon Prime videos rated PG-13 and above. This safeguard helps them to know what they’re allowed to watch and it keeps us from having to veto videos that aren’t appropriate for their age group.
Establish technology free zones. Whether it’s a day of the week or while on vacation, you should have times when everyone—including Mom and Dad—are offline and engaged with the world fully. Make sure there are regular device-free times throughout the summer, and into the fall as well. There’s a lot we can miss with our nose pressed to a screen, so let’s try to make sure it isn’t our families that we’re ignoring.
Dock devices at night. Sleep is so important, especially for growing kids, so having a device basket for all devices to rest at night is smart. Make sure your kids are offline at least an hour before bedtime to ensure they rest well.
Remind them you have the final say. No matter what they say, you should have the final vote on what they do on what device when. You’re the parent for a reason, so exercise your parental rights and crack down when necessary—and lighten up when you can too.
Practice what you preach. If ever there’s a time when parents should do what they say, it’s with electronic devices. Kids will be more apt to toe the line when they see Mom and Dad obeying the household device rules too.