It’s officially summer. Kids everywhere are trading in tests and homework for popsicles, trips to the pool, lazy days in the backyard and, um, screen time? The glow of a phone or tablet isn’t what most parents envision for summer break, so at some point you’ll have to answer: How much screen time for kids?
This nagging issue affects parents with kids of all ages. From 2013 to 2017, Common Sense Media found that mobile screen time for children 8 years and under more than tripled—from 15 minutes per day to 48 minutes per day. The same organization discovered that 66% of parents feel their teens spend too much time on mobile devices.
Those stats might make it seem like the odds are stacked against you. But with a few tips and tricks, you can reclaim summer and maybe even redirect some attention from glowing screens to the glow of fireflies or heck, even a campfire. Here are five ideas to get you started.
- Set up no-tech zones. Try establishing some areas of your family life as strictly tech-free. It’s a tactic even Microsoft founder Bill Gates used when his kids were growing up. Phones were strictly off limits at all Gates family meals to keep the focus on each other. Other zones to consider: No screens in your children’s bedrooms or during family board game night. To make these rules stick, lead by example and talk to your kids about giving each other the gift of full, undivided attention.
- Empower your kids to monitor their own screen time. Yep, it’s possible. We even know one three-year-old who’s a champ at it. The secret is giving your child a tool to manage their own time after you say, “OK, you can play on the iPad for an hour.” We suggest investing in a Time Timer PLUS that your child can set and then see time as the large, brightly colored disk disappears. Kids turn off the iPad once the timer dings and with a little practice, no prompting from mom or dad. Time Timer PLUS makes the perfect screen timer.
- Choose a technology bedtime. Your kids have bed times, so why not add them for electronic devices, too? Try turning off all screens in the house at least one hour before bed. This gives everyone time to truly wind down—with, say, a book or art project—before climbing into bed. And it prevents any disruption those screens may cause to falling or staying asleep. You might even give devices a designated sleeping area, such as a charging area in the kitchen, to help round them up at the designated hour.
- Set age-appropriate time limits (and occasionally break them). How much screen time is right? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an hour a day for children ages 2 to 5. For older kids, it’s about balance. You need to make sure screen time doesn’t take away from homework, exercise, in-person socializing, sleep and other key activities. There’s also room for breaking the rules on special occasions. Maybe you double daily screen time on vacation. Or stop limiting screen time for car rides over two hours.
- Attach healthy strings to screen time. Think of screen time as something your kids need to earn by navigating some healthy strings you’ve attached. We know one mom who only allowed screen time after her son attended a daily summer sports camp at his school. You might require other active summer pursuits, such as playing in the backyard, helping out with household chores or attending swim lessons. As with all these tips, choose what works best for your family!