Remember the good ol’ days when summer break meant climbing trees, hitting the beach, and enjoying long naps in the hammock? Today’s breaks look more like technology camp with kids glued to their phones, tablets, and video games. So, how can you as parents balance the time kids spend connected to friends (virtually) with time outdoors, exercising, playing, reading, creating, and enjoying some analog fun?
1. Set the ground rules early. Don’t create a cushion week (or month!) where kids set the rules. Specify from week one the rules for the summer and try to stick to them.
2. Read! The Summer Slide, where kids’ reading skills take a big step backward, is a real and daunting phenomenon so work toward keeping the reading muscles exercised all summer. Most libraries have reading contents for the summer; sign up, read with your kids, do word finds and crossword puzzles. Anything to keep the brain wired when school is out.
3. Set goals and offer rewards. Whether it’s to eat healthier, exercise more, read, or save allowance money, ask your kids to set goals and reward them for achieving them. Creating family goals—saving for a vacation or getting in shape together—can be a great way to come together, striving for something as a unit.
4. Set a time limit for tech. An hour before camp and an hour after dinner? Whatever seems the right fit for your child, institute the policy and stick to it. Have a charging station or cubby where devices go when not in use. With any luck, they’ll even forget about their tech as the summer goes on.
5. Use tech in conjunction with play. Rather than cutting technology entirely from their lives, allow kids to use it constructively. Facetime with Grandma, use fitness apps to track healthy habits, and find educational sites that make reading and learning fun.
6. Get some rest. Remember that screentime should stop at least an hour before bedtime. Studies show that, especially in younger children, screentime before bed impedes healthy sleep.
Need help getting your summer Disconnect from Tech plan together? Check your local library as well as these family-friendly apps and websites:
– Pokemon GO: Not a traditional fitness app, but definitely a fun way for families to get out and get moving. Because this geocaching game requires an overlap of virtual and real-world landscapes, use the opportunity to teach situational awareness and safety.
– Terrific reading and math sites: