Well hip-hop-hooray everyone! I am just back from NYC where I shot a Today Show segment that airs THIS MORNING! Catch it if you can in the 10a hour on [sings] N-B-C! And if you’re a new reader, WELCOME!
I was chatting with Kathie Lee and Hoda about two imminent issues for parents: How to regulate screen time during the summer, and how to keep kids engaged with learning during the summer and prevent the dreaded “Summer Slide”. According to the National Summer Learning Association, teachers say they spend 4-6 weeks a school year re-teaching the stuff kids forgot from last year?! That’s a lot of wasted time, no? In my segment, I offer some great ideas for keeping kids of all ages academically sharp over the summer. I’ve got links to all the products I mentioned at the bottom of the post.
Let’s circle back to the kids screen time during the summer thing though, because the last thing you want is for your summer routine to devolve into an all-you-can-eat buffet of screens. Banning all screens all summer just isn’t realistic in my house, but it’s a good idea to create some boundaries so things don’t get crazy. Below are some prompts that can help you create a contract with your kids that you agree to and sign before summer starts. I can’t stress this enough: It’s important to get on the same page before summer starts. Trying to course correct once the summer is underway is going to be way harder: It’s so much easier for you (and clearer for the kids) if everyone has a talk about screen time before school ends.
I’ve created a downloadable contract for you to use— grab it from the link below. Use each prompt as jumping off point for creating your family rules around kids screen time this summer, and you’ll all be off to a good start.
What is the new daily routine going to be like?
When will your kids have free time and when will they be engaged in pre-set activities? Knowing the general structure of events can help kids mentally prepare for the future, and start to digest the new routine. If the routine will change each week, creating a calendar that they can use to look ahead is ideal.
What time of day can kids get on their screens?
If they jump on first thing in the morning, it can be hard to motivate them to get off the couch… are screen times an afternoon activity only? Everyone should think this through and present ideas.
How long are kids allowed to be on screens each day/week?
This is a personal decision for everyone, but the American Association of Pediatrics says kids 2 years old and up should have no more than 2 hours per day. The AAP acknowledges, however, that screens and social media are an important part of a teenagers social scene, so 2 hours per day at that age might not be entirely realistic. Ultimately, us parents drive the bus on this one and you need to be comfortable with the rules that you set— and kids need to know that they’re not up for negotiation.
What’s expected of your kids before they get on screens?
Time to make a list of chores, personal summer goals (for reading, creative endeavors, practicing math, sports, etc.) and other non-negotiables (ie. getting at least one hour of exercise per day, cleaning ones room, etc.) that must be accomplished before a kids screen time can start. Involve your kids in setting goals, creating realistic expectations, and you’ll be surprised at what they come up with.
Are there ways to earn extra screen time?
Again this is a personal decision that every family needs to make. I have tried this in the past, but it ends up being a pain for me to track who got what “screen points” for doing what thing… I find that there is intrinsic motivation in meeting goals and creating healthy habits that my kids respond to, and as long as they’re meeting their goals and fulfilling their obligations, I’m fine with them enjoying the video games and (age appropriate) YouTube videos they love. That’s kind of how their life works when your mom isn’t around to nag you… you have to have a healthy balance, so I like to think I’m giving them the blueprint for that now.
Discuss when screen time isn’t appropriate (and follow your own rules).
Even if obligations have been met, the dog has been walked, etc., there are times and places when screens are off limits always. Namely at meals, in bed, while walking (so we don’t have collisions!), and in other public situations where phones are anti-social or not polite. And because I’m trying to model good behavior for my kids (an important part of all of this rule-making) I try to follow the rules as well. If I do have to take a call during those times, I excuse myself politely, acknowledging that this is a special situation. And I try not to do it frequently so it feels like an anomaly when it happens.
Discuss active and passive screen time.
Playing a video game is passive, learning to create one is active. Watching YouTube videos is passive, creating your own show is active. My kids know they’ll always have permission for more screen time if they’re pursuing creative endeavors, vs. consuming time sucking junk online. Prompt them to think about how much of their screen time is passive, and how to adopt some more active projects, like composing digital music or learning to code.
Establish the Consequences for breaking the rules.
It’s fun to watch kids try and figure out their own punishments. Involve them in figuring out what the consequences should be if the rules are broken. Sometimes my kids are more severe than I am!
Best of luck working this out— let me know how you do in the comments! As promised, here are the links to the rest of the products from the Today Show segment:
One we didn’t mention: Nabi Compete