community advocate, @techhealthyfamily
Summer equals swimming, fun in the sun, snowcones, and SCREENS. It’s fair to say that there are lots of good intentions when summer starts to make meaningful memories and spend time outside. However, those pesky attention-seeking devices can distract from those experiences, prevent kids from going outside, and stimulate the brain at all hours of the night. Make this summer less of a headache by incorporating these tools and others to have more In Real Life (IRL) summer adventures.
MAKE A MEDIA PLAN
You know when you see a friend and you say something like “We need to get together soon,” and you know that’s actually not going to happen unless you make a plan right then and there to do that? The same is true for our intentions with screens. Good intentions are only that until you put them into action. Media plans can help with the doing part. Make a plan that is clear, understood by everyone, and that you are willing and able to follow through with. Include the whole family in the process as much as possible. You can find great online templates to utilize.
REPEAT AFTER ME, “SCREENS ARE A PRIVILEGE”
No matter how much your child emphasizes that all of their friends have this or that device, having access to electronics is not an inherent right. While I agree that aspects of these devices are helpful and beneficial to kids and teens, many functions are not crucial.
Consider these privilege-reinforcer-tactics based on the age and trust level of your child:
• A screen-time checklist of chores, time outside, reading, etc., before using their device.
• Charge and store devices in a central location.
• Ask permission and state intentions before using devices.
It feels like devices, and especially phones, feel scarier to frame in this way. However, if your teen is continuously speeding, driving reckless, and getting into fender benders, you would absolutely rein in access to the keys more often. This doesn’t mean that your kid is bad, but that their actions demonstrate they aren’t ready for that responsibility yet.
PLANT MORE FLOWERS
We’re all aware of just how addicting these devices can be for adults — consider for a moment how impressionable these can be for developing brains. It’s not enough to say, “get off your phone.” Often your child might need a little guidance for what to do next. We all know what happens when you have a big open spot of dirt: Weeds grow abundantly. The space changes and is more productive when you plant flowers and grass to grow instead. Help them plant those flowers!
DON’T FORGET THE BASICS
Just because it’s summer and it feels great to step off the gas, don’t sleep on the ways that technology can be dangerous and unhealthy for your family. Studies show that summer is one of the most common times for teens to find themselves in the most trouble, including through screens. If your schedule doesn’t work to supervise and reinforce your family rules, rely on other people, routers, and technology to aid in that. However, never underestimate the scrappiness of a YouTube search to get around all of the blocks you might have in place. It is crucial to couple those tools with a healthy and open relationship as well.
RESET AND ADJUST WHEN NECESSARY
When everything feels out of control, screen time rules are being broken left and right, and you feel overwhelmed by the follow through, take a couple days to reset and start over. Disconnect your family from all devices, and focus on getting back to your family values before jumping back in.
Technology is its own beast that is here to stay for the better or worse. Help your child learn healthy skills while they are in your homes, so they can be more successful not just this summer, but also throughout their life.
Jentrie Hales is a community advocate with five years’ experience empowering parents and children in different settings. She has been invited into classrooms, youth groups, and parent groups throughout Cache Valley to speak about healthy relationships with tech and professionally mentors families that feel overwhelmed with managing the tech in their home. Follow her on Instagram @techhealthyfam or email her at email@example.com
When things seem to be getting a little out of control — have a screen reset. Go a day or two with no screens, no friends, no extra and just be together to get back to basics and values.
You have more control than you think. It takes lots of consistent effort and sometimes being the “bad guy,” but it’s worth it to have more influence in your home than what your child takes in on their device. Screens can often get in the way of that.
I had a simple, yet wonderful childhood. Living in a rural neighborhood with acres of land between my family any other kid. Summers sometimes felt long and uneventful, however my mom modeled the screen-time balance very well. Here is how it went: Chores, reading, lunch, and then we could all choose to watch a show or movie. Almost every day we would all choose to watch the coveted Judge Judy. Mom gave us an hour tops watching a show and then the TV was off, and we were responsible to find a way to stay entertained the rest of the day. No IFS AND OR BUTS about it. Usually we would wander outside and make up games together, read, or make our way to the gas station down the road with a couple of quarters. I didn’t know it at the time, but my mom taught me from a young age what type of role screens should have in our lives.