Screentime is a bit like sugar: we know we need less of it, but it’s just so good.And now that kids have whole days without spelling tests and math problems, it’s easy to let screens — whether a TV, computer or electronic device — fill the gap. But there’s more to summertime than staring at a screen.
Every family has different values and needs, so there’s not one right way to manage screen time. Here are a few ideas that some families use to minimize time spent on screens and maximize time spent making summer memories:
Make an agreement or contract. Write up an agreement about the limits and requirements of screentime. You might include the amount of time that’s allowed, any conditions that must be met prior to getting screentime, what actions are and are not allowed and what consequences will be if these are broken. Inviting input from kids about what will work best for everyone gives them some buy-in. Putting it in writing makes it easier to go back and review — everyone will need occasional reminders.
Instate a daily Wi-fi password. Create a list of tasks or requirements that must be completed in order to get the day’s Wi-fi password. Requirements might include things like outdoor play, reading, chores completed and time spent playing or being creative. This requires that the password be changed daily, or as often as you want to limit screen time. It also won’t work as well for kids who have cell phones with data.
Download another app. There are a number of apps for Android and iOS that monitor or limit screen time. They offer various types of functions at different prices. Freedom (iOS), for example, blocks specified apps and websites for periods of time. Moment (iOS) tracks rather than limits screen time. OurPact (iOS and Android, see accompanying story) blocks apps remotely. Screen Time Parental Control (iOS and Android) not only blocks apps, but allows opportunity to earn extra screen time by completing chores.
Get on a schedule. Assign a time frame for use by each family member and device, for example, screens can be used between 2 – 4 p.m. Adopting a screen time schedule eliminates the ongoing requests for screen time, along with issues of tracking time spent in front of a screen. The disadvantage, however, is that it doesn’t accommodate changes in schedule and kids are likely to get frustrated if they miss their use window because they were dragged to the grocery store last minute.