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Wednesday, July 24th, 2013
As July turns into August, we look forward to our last summer vacation, final trips to the pool, and a few more weeks whose days can be a little less unstructured as school looms on the horizon. It’s a bittersweet time for families as we look forward to the excitement of our kids starting a new grade level but also acknowledging that they’re also a year older as summer ends. Make your final month of summer count by resolving to unplug a bit more in favor of family time because as Amy Foster, Director of Consumer Insights at The Walt Disney Company says, we only have 18 summers with our kids before they leave the nest we call home.
18 summers. What summer are you on? How many do you have to go? In our home, my husband gently reminds me that we’ve enjoyed half the summers we’ll have with our daughter and 1/3 with our son. In 9 years our daughter will graduate from college. Her brother will only be around for two years after that.
Everyone always tells new parents that time goes quickly. “Enjoy it,” they say. But somehow we forget. We forget with looming work deadlines and the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Before the weekend comes, pause.
Hit your pause button in the name of digital wellness. Stop for a minute and figure out how much time you want to spend plugged in versus unplugged. Take a look at your work and family calendar to see if you can seize some time together in this final month of summer to reconnect with your kids face to face before school starts and the hustle and bustle begins again.
Because how many more summers do you have? Grab hold of this last month and enjoy it before next summer rolls around.
Mother and daughter enjoying time at tropical beach via Shutterstock
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Friday, July 19th, 2013
With summer in full swing, routines in flux, and a more relaxed attitude, screen time can be a challenge especially when screens include the television, computer, smartphones, tablets, and gaming done on the family TV and also mobile devices. Ensuring that your child has a well rounded summer that includes use of their favorite media along with a healthy dose of outside time combined with keeping up academics to prevent the infamous summer slide can be a challenge.
If you’re finding that your kids are taking advantage of lazy summer days with too much screen time, here are five things to do to establish guidelines between now and the time school starts to create digital wellness in your home.
Unplug and have a talk about the various devices in your home and what they think is an appropriate amount of screen time. Depending on the age of your children, this is a time limit that you may choose to set on your own or one to negotiate with your older children. Regardless, they’re more likely to comply if they’re involved in the conversation rather than having the gauntlet laid down and screens taken away.
Figure out how you want to allocate screen time. For some families, a daily limit works best while others prefer to evaluate time in front of screens over the course of a week. Also consider whether screen time will happen all at once or if it should be happen during different times of the day.
Pull out the timer. Some devices have built in timers that are helpful but a kitchen timer can be helpful for everyone in the house. A parent’s desire to sit down and take “just 5 minutes” to send a “quick” work email can turn into much longer just as easily as a child’s cry of “10 more minutes ple-ase!”
Set a good example. If you don’t want your kids playing on their handheld gaming devices all the time, find a way to disconnect too. Our kids how see how much we rely on our Blackberries and iPhones and while it may be a necessity for work and difficult to avoid checking email while in their presence, being able to put down our smartphones demonstrates that we don’t need to be in front of screens all the time either.
Be flexible. Realize that the guidelines that you establish at home aren’t set in stone. After spending long hot day outside at camp or at the pool, it may be beneficial to cool off on the couch in front of a movie. When traveling long distances by air or car, it’s often helpful to give kids some extra screen time to make the time pass faster.
The bottom line is that every family is different. Figure out what’s best for your family to achieve a healthy balance of screen time this summer and beyond.
Chinese boy using tablet while lying on bed via Shutterstock
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Thursday, April 19th, 2012
If you’ve ever needed a reason to re-evaluate your family’s screen time, The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood’s Screen Free Week provides the perfect opportunity.
From April 30-May 1, Screen Free Week encourages all families to “spend seven days turning of entertainment screen media and turning on life.” This annual celebration encourages unplugging from televisions, iPads, smartphones, handheld gaming devices, computers, etc. By reducing dependence on screens, organizers hope that families will take time to “unplug and play, read, daydream, create, explore, and spend more time with family and friends.”
This annual event resulted from research that concluded “children spend far too much time in front of screens: an astonishing average of 32 hours a week for preschoolers and even more for older children. Time with screens is linked to poor school performance, childhood obesity, attention issues and other health and social problems.”
While completely disconnecting from all forms of screens can be harsh, Screen Free Week can be a time to talk about your family’s screen time. Creating conversations can be a healthy way to evaluate the role that screens play. Talking about what your child sees on a screen, how they feel when they play video games, or spend too much time on the computer may be a better solution than completely cutting off screen time.
Talking about how much time you spend with screens and can be helpful in having your child aid you in establishing family limits on gaming. Consider discussing alternatives to the ways screens may be involved in your lives and take this time to learn from your children by using these conversation starters:
- What might be we be missing when we’re watching a DVD in the car? Talk about appreciating the changing seasons and scenery or the kinds of games that you can play in the car such as old school license plate bingo.
- Going out to dinner is family time. What can we do at a restaurant instead of looking at a screen? Steer the discussion towards events that occurred during the day, create conversation around the menu, or play a game of tic tac toe.
- Talk about favorite television shows. Figure out if there’s a way to limit watching in a reasonable way or sit down with your child to learn more about what they are watching on the television.
- Discuss favorite online websites or games. Have them teach you about them and then play with them.
- If you feel guilty about the amount of time you spend on your smartphone, ask your kids what they think. Do they notice? Do they mind? How can you work together towards a solution?
What other ideas do you have for creating conversations about periodically disconnecting and spending time as a screen-free household?
Woman holding black Euro plug via ShutterStock
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