You can avoid many of the arguments over screen time this summer. Here are six steps for how to manage screen time this summer.
With COVID-19, we’ve already be stuck at home so much this spring. The children have been on Zoom or Google Meets for classes, and submitting their work via apps.
They are already looking at screens too much, just for school. So how can we manage screen time this summer?
I can already hear it: “Mom can I watch TV? Mama can I play games on the iPad? Can I watch a movie now?”
Maybe you’re starting to feel an encroaching sense of dread about summer, too. Now that there is no school and most summer camps are canceled, how can you avoid relying on screens?
I know that when I need to work, the temptation will always be to turn on the TV. That’s not always bad – we watch a bunch of educational programming.
Daniel Tiger has taught my children a lot about emotional regulation and social skills. But it can be so hard it is to put boundaries on screen time.
Plus, I don’t feel good about my parenting when my children are on their third hour of PBS Kids. And their behavior isn’t great when they have too much screen time either. Your children are probably the same.
Fortunately, you can avoid many of the arguments over screen time this summer. Here are five steps for how to manage screen time this summer.
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1: Consider what you are capable of enforcing
I live real life over here. I’m worn out from COVID-19 quarantine and having a newborn. I’m a licensed elementary school teacher and have two Masters degrees in education – teaching my own kids all day was still hard.
So let’s give ourselves a break. Please don’t set yourself up for failure.
Consider what you are really capable of enforcing.
Your physical, mental, and emotional health matter more to the long-term well-being of your children than how much screen time they have during the COVID-19 crisis.
2. Think about your values and goals for the summer
Next, you want to start with the end in mind. Fast forward and think about the first day your children return to school in September (assuming we return to school).
- How do you want to feel about your summer?
- What memories or experiences do you want to have?
- What kind of summer do you want to have as a parent?
- What kind of summer do you want your children to have?
- What are your family’s values around screen time?
- Are you going to follow the AAP’s recommendations about screen time?
Maybe you want to remember laid-back, unstructured days at home where you loosely monitored screen time. That works for your children and you feel good about.
Or you want to have tons of fun and unique socially-distanced adventures. You want to remember all the times your children surprised you as they played imaginatively. This makes you feel good about your summer.
Neither choice is right or wrong. This is a matter of deciding on your priorities.
Taking this moment to be mindful will help drive your decision-making over the summer. Mindfulness will also eliminate your guilt because you will have decided proactively.
We’re planning 10 Weeks of Mom Camp while staying home this summer (this post is coming soon!). So I want my children to have memories of those easy yet fun daily activities.
They will have simple, fun outdoor playtime so their bodies and minds are active. They behave a lot better when they get outdoors.
I want them to have memories of simple childhood fun like running through the sprinkler and digging in dirt. If the parks reopen, I want to take them to the playground in the early morning when I can hear the birds chirping.
My children to have about two hours of screen time a day while I’m getting work and housekeeping done.
When my daughter (hopefully) goes back to elementary school and my son starts preschool, this will be a summer I feel good about.
3: Be intentional about your screen time
Once you’ve decided on your overall priorities and values for the summer and screen time, figure out how you want to intentionally use screen time.
- Will screen time be when you need a break?
- Will screen time be when the baby is napping?
- Will screen time be while you are working, doing housework, or making meals?
- Will screen time be a bonding opportunity for your family like Family Movie Night?
My plan for summer screen time is:
- My two older children to use watch PBS Kids on Prime Video for a half-hour in the morning as their reinforcement for staying their beds all night. I will feed the baby during this time.
- They will watch another 30 minutes show on PBS Kids on Prime Video in the afternoon while I prepare dinner.
- My daughter will be allowed the iPad for to play the ABC Mouse app in the mid-afternoon while the baby naps and the preschooler has rest time so I can work. She must first play quietly and independently in her room for 30 minutes and then can play ABC Mouse only on the iPad for another 30 minutes.
- We will continue to have Family Movie Night on Saturdays.
Decide on your plan. Grab a piece of paper and write them down now.
4; Decide on your family rules
Figure out if you have any screen time rules and write them down on the Summer Screen Time Rules worksheet. Having written rules is the critical piece to help you manage screen time this summer.
- Is screen time a given in your family or does it need to be earned as a reward?
- Do chores need to be completed prior to screen time?
- Will screen time be at a scheduled time daily or will you decide day-to-day?
Our family rules are:
- We can watch Nature Cat if we sleep in our bed all night until Okay to Wake Clock lights up.
- Beds must be made and clothes on prior to watching the PBS Kids show Nature Cat on Prime Video.
- We can watch PBS Kids show Let’s Go Luna on Prime Video after we clean up our toys.
- We only play video games at day care.
- We will have PBS Kids Family Night with Mom and Dad.
- If we beg for more screen time, the answer will be no.
5: Communicate your rules to your children
Write out the rules on the Summer Screen Time Rules printable. Make sure they are clear for your child to read and understand.
Then go over the rules with your children – you need everyone on the same page. Present the rules in a matter of fact way unless you feel like you want to have a family meeting and negotiate the rules.
And remember, these rules are as much for you as they are for the children. If you as the parent are not crystal clear on your priorities and rules, it’s hard to have an established boundary and thus hard to manage screen time this summer.
I know from experience. I learned the hard way on Spring Break last year.
6: Have a plan for summer
You’ll need to have a plan on how you handle your summer days in general. Routines will prevent many problems around screen time. I’ve created a post about routines and a printable Summer Routine for you!
Next, think through the meltdowns or fits you might encounter when your children ask for screen time in a way that violates the rules. In our family, we will point to the rules, give one empathetic reminder “yes I know this is hard for you,” and then walk away from our children.
But let’s be honest, there are going to be so many times you’re just tempted to give up and toss them the iPad.
Maybe you’re on a work deadline or you JUST NEED A BREAK! I’ve certainly been there (hello COVID-19!)
So spend some time getting ready now. Think through the alternative activities and supplies. I know being stuck at home has probably burnt you out so I’ve created Screen-free Activity cards for this reason.
All you need to do is print the cards, and hit click and ship for the supplies.
Recapping how to manage screen time this summer
Here’s the summary for all you busy parents.
- Consider what you are capable of enforcing.
- Think about your goals and values for the summer
- Be intentional with how you’ll use screen time.
- Decide o your family rules.
- Communicate your rules to your children.
- Have a plan for the summer.
Listen, it’s been a rough spring with the coronavirus. You’re burnt out and so are the kids.
So think about what is manageable for screen time and come up with a plan that works for your family. Use the Summer Screen Time Rules printable and you’re on your way to managing screen time this summer.