How to Plan Your Child’s Online Activities for Summer
For most of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s, what we remember about summer is being outdoors, playing with friends and lots of physical activities.
Whether it was riding bikes, skateboarding, swimming, or planning adventures with friends, it was all about what was happening out in the world each day.
Fast forward to 2019, and children live a very different life.
For most kids today, summer break represents free time to stare at screens and get lost in an online world of games, videos, and social media.
While it's easy to roll your eyes about the way things have changed, it's a reality we must accept.
Technology is now a part of everyone's lives and making a plan on how to manage it is a wise decision.
Here are some of the best ways we have learned to help kids get the most from technology and also balance with real-world activities over the summer.
Create a Daily Screen Budget
While the words' screen budget' might sound horribly dull, it's a great tool to help your kids learn self-control.
If your children know they have 1-2 hours each day to be online or on devices, then they have to make the most of the time. When they have limited time online each day, they will value the experience more. Click here to find out what a healthy amount of screen time per day for children is based on their age.
To make the screen budget work, screens should be kept out of kids' bedrooms. There should be no devices (for parents or kids) at mealtime. Parents must also set the example of not always being attached to phones or computers. Face to face time with parents and children is critical to make the screen budget work.
Plan Daily Activities
One of the reasons that kids end up sitting on devices for a long time is that parents give them no direction for free time. A lot of kids are told to 'go out and play' over summer. The problem is that kids aren't typically great planners. Without a plan in place for the day, most will default to watching media and playing video games.
By making plans for specific activities several days during the week, it helps kids to get excited about what's happening. Ideally, a mix of outdoor and indoor activity works best. The real world activities will give them new experiences, and will also distract them from the online world for most of the day.
Reward Good Behavior with Extra Time
One critical mistake a lot of parents make is to punish bad behavior by taking away devices.
This punishment tactic sets up a craving for devices and makes the child feel they are entitled to online access as a normal part of life.
In reality, the best method is to set a small time limit each day (i.e., a screen budget) and then reward kids with a little bonus time (30 mins or so) if they display good behavior.
This gives them the incentive to behave and sets up the feeling of technology being a privilege.
Plan Out What They Do Online
Especially for younger children under age 12, it is essential to direct their activity online.
You can use website blockers or give them a list of websites they are allowed to use. With games, you can use ESRB guidelines to help guide what they should be playing.
If you are looking for a list of useful websites, then here is an excellent article with 19 great places for kids.
Similar to movies, there should be some rules for what children can and cannot view online. It's a normal part of growing up. Despite the ubiquitous nature of the internet, it's very reasonable to set boundaries for children online.