How to set boundaries on screens in the dog days of summer?
Updated from 5/30/2021
I know this is even more overwhelming than the idea of summer planning.
I could launch into a soap box of the effects of screens on our kids, but I think I start by telling you about the screen dynamic in my household first.
I grew up without a gaming system in my home, and my parents didn’t even get a computer until I was in middle school or high school. I know I’m aging myself here, but it was an Apple 486, and the only ‘games’ on it were Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, an X-Wing flying game, and Duke Nukem on my parents' Apple 486. (Yep, that old thing)
My husband is a gamer. He had all the gaming systems of the 90s and is still an avid gamer today.
We come from two different worlds, and if I wanted to keep my husband around there would be video games in our house. So, we had to establish what we wanted screen time to look like in our household. Part of me is shocked that my husband agrees that less screen time is best.
Set the Time
In my blog post 18 Summers, we talked about Our Goals as a Parent, and how knowing your goal can help shape how you plan your summers and family time. The same is true for Screen Time. To keep with my goal of creativity and seeing God’s beauty I have to stand firm in limiting the amount of screen time and the types of games my kids play.
During the summer my kiddos are allowed One hour and thirty minutes of screen time during the day. The only time they can have more is when they are wanting to do something creative (which is in line with my goal), like make a LEGO movie, learn to draw, or attempt to be like Dude Perfect.
Have To Before Want To
Okay, we’ve established how much Screen time we can have, but how do we get them to do anything but ask us what time it is?
I found an amazing printable over at ThirtyHandmadeDays that helps my sanity during the summer or any break from school. Before any screens for play or creativity, comes all the things listed have to be done. Three of those activities combined take an hour, which usually fills our morning since I have early risers in my home. Not to mention the creativity that is bursting forth from my kiddos from the moment their feet hit the ground, which makes the morning routine harder to work through from time to time.
This list also gives me a reference point when my kids come to me with a boredom ‘problem’.
There are many ideas out there of how to structure how screen time fits into your day, but this one has been the simplest. Cause it’s my summer too, and I don’t want another thing to keep track of.
Turn it off!
Alright here’s where the rubber meets the road.
Albeit 90 minutes in a day isn’t a lot of time, so how do we get them to turn them off when times are up? I wish I had a magic method that made my kids automatically turn their screens off when the time is up with a smile on their faces. Truthfully, I feel this is something that is constantly evolving at our house. We’ve done counting and the number I count till it’s turned off is the number of minutes of screen time you lose next. We’ve lost all screen time the next day, we’ve added chores there and many others. What seems to be working currently and with the most success is me or my husband yanking the screens from their hands.
This sounds extreme but let me explain. When their time has five minutes remaining, I walk over and get eye contact (very important!!), and say “You have five minutes. Now is the time to finish what you’re doing and save. Don’t start anything new.” Then they get a one-minute warning before I start collecting devices. Only if they refuse to give me the device are consequences enforced.
Whatever your tactic is the key thing is to stick with it. Hold the line and be firm. Self-regulation is not in a kid’s wheelhouse naturally. So, if you’re going to draw a line in the sand you have to keep it.
Since kids are natural explorers, there is not much we need to do, except turn those screens off. Don’t look at me like I’m asking you to jump in the arctic ocean in your swimsuit. I’m not crazy. It can be done.
Screen time is a battle. It is a battle worth fighting because you are fighting for your kiddos’ childhood. Limits on screen time can be a dividing factor among your kid’s friends as well. I know it has been for mine. But I have to hold firm to what I believe is best for my kiddos and the goals and values I’ve set as a parent.
Grab my 5 Tips for setting Screen Time Boundaries here to start the conversation before summer begins.