Aaah, summer. It’s so great, because you can relax more in the mornings without everyone racing out the door to school. But it’s also kind of awful, because you have to fill a LOT of time during the day. And if you have kids – regardless of age, but especially tweens, I fear – you may be battling over screen time.
The Professor (aka my husband) and I try not to micromanage our girls’ every move, especially now that they’re older. They have to learn how to occupy themselves without our help, and hopefully without devices 100% of the time, TV included. We’ve observed that once the girls are on a device – any device – it’s nearly impossible to get them off. And worse, their angelic little selves morph into less agreeable creatures. The girls have survived being SO BORED with NOTHING TO DO (emphasis theirs) and found creative ways to spend their time when we’ve eliminated access to technology altogether in the past.
Here at our house, we’re coming into the home stretch of summer – vacations are done, three weeks at camp are over – it’s just us and all those hours to fill. We’re hoping well-communicated rules and expectations will drastically decrease arguments about device time. At least, that’s how I envision it. Flawless. Seamless. Received with gracious, lovely attitudes. Here’s our strategy to manage the whole process this summer:
Create Guidelines or Rules
Everyone’s situation is different, so decide what you want your kids to do every day. I googled “before screen time” and used that as my starting point. I tweaked different lists to customize them for us and what we want done before screens.
Our list has 14 things on it – some simple like “get dressed” and others more involved like “be creative for 30 minutes (write, draw, play, imagine).” They have to read for 30 minutes, exercise for 20, and run through some chores. It may seem long, tedious, and rather arbitrary, but our goal is to keep them off screens for as long as possible. And more often than not, once they get involved in something else, they’ll stick with it for a while.
Review Them Dispassionately
When we’re home from our last vacation, The Professor and I will present the checklist in our most monotone and detached voices. We’re not leaving this open for negotiation or discussion (because immediately the little one will want to know if she can do half the stuff for double the screen time, bless). That’s how we’re doing it in our home this summer – we need to rein in these girls a little bit right now and remind them who’s in charge. You may decide to come up with the list together as a family and discuss the whole process – whatever works for you.
But once the rules are in place, consistency is key. So if these are the rules, these are the rules. We’re hoping to follow them consistently. Objectively. Religiously. When everyone in the house knows and understands what’s expected of them, life run smoother.
Our girls are old enough that we don’t reward them for things they should do anyway. But we’ve planned some reward(ish), fun activities if we can all get through a couple of weeks successfully. While we don’t entertain our girls and/or pretend to be their friends, we really do love spending time with them. They’re insightful and funny and challenging and smart and fun. Summer is the perfect time to try new things together, before the chaos of school year hits us and we’re off running in a million different directions again. Another escape room, stand-up paddle boarding, and studio painting as a family are things we’d like to do if we can pull this off.
Good luck to you, parents – may you stay sane through the many remaining hours of summer, find ways to manage potential screen-time conflict, and have fun with your kids. It’s true what they say – the days are long, but the years are short.