Qustodio with Marc Masip
Experts in digital safety and technology addiction
When school’s out, those memorable summer routines (or lack of them) get into full swing for families everywhere. Most kids end the school year exhausted, but on a high. They generally spend more time outdoors, heading to the beach, or just hanging out with their friends in the sunshine. But, like everything else, there comes a time when the high wears off, and many kids turn to their phones and digital devices to pass the time.
It can be tough for parents and guardians to get kids following the same tried and tested screen time rules over the summer, but we’ve got you covered. Along with expert in technology addiction Marc Masip, we’ve compiled our top summer screen time tips for families to reign in the tech use, and build great habits that last all year long.
Is it okay to give my child extra screen time over summer?
Summer is long, and we’re sure that there are several arguments in favor of cramming in a few hours’ extra screen time, both from your kids’ point of view, and yours!
In the grand scheme of things, the occasional bonus screen-time session isn’t going to affect your child’s routine or their wellbeing too much. However, a relaxed approach for the whole summer isn’t a one-off change to your rules, which you’ve most likely put in place in order to look out for your child’s mental and physical health (among other things), and to help them build strong digital habits that they’ll rely on in later life.
As Masip puts it, “In my experience, the amount of screen time should not change in the summer or at any time of year. Though it can be extra tempting in the summer to be a little lax on the rules, the problem with giving more screen time is that a habit is quickly formed. This means returning to shorter time limits in the fall is extremely difficult. I see more patients in September than any other time of the year exactly for this reason.”
How much screen time is best during summer?
The key, as with anything, lies in striking the right balance for your family. There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how much screen time is “right”, as it all depends on your child’s age, your family’s needs, and, importantly, your child’s personality.
It’s up to you to decide what the right levels of screen time are, and whether that means an increase over the summer, bearing in mind how it could affect your regular routines once vacation time is over. When thinking about how much you need to limit screen time, consider:
- How your kids are using screens. Are your kids watching a YouTube tutorial before trying out something new, or do they just want to play video games all day long? Intentional use is miles apart from the mindless, endless scroll, so try to promote quality over quantity wherever possible.
- Is the screen time for them or you? It can be difficult to keep kids constantly engaged and entertained over the summer break, especially if you have to work or are busy. Screens can be a way to occupy your kids, but try to keep the “digital pacifier” as a last resort tactic. Planning out your day, or thinking of a wide variety of activities in advance can help with this!
Once you understand how, why, and when your kids want to use technology, it’ll be easier to manage screen time and come to a decision over the right amount to offer them across the summer break.
How to create better screen time habits in summer
1. Don’t use screen time as a bartering tool.
Of course, this is easier said than done, but try not to associate screen time with being a special “treat”. The goal is to build healthy habits, not bargaining chips.
In the words of Masip, “Resist the temptation to use screen time as a punishment or a reward. This can easily turn into blackmail and is the wrong way to educate your children. Having good grades, doing well at sports, and doing chores are part of building good character and should have nothing to do with winning or losing screen time.”
2. Let any guardians know about your screen time rules
If you’re leaving your kids with family members or any other guardians over the summer, they can’t be expected to understand your rules if they don’t know what they are! Clearly lay out your screen time rules to anybody who’s watching over your children during vacation time, or any time of year, for that matter.
It can be difficult to enforce a routine when kids are out the house, so consider using a parental control tool to help keep ground rules in place, no matter where they are, or who they’re with.
If your child is spending increased time with granddad, a neighbor, or even with their co-parent in a separate household, and you don’t want to share your login details, Qustodio’s additional parent feature can be a great help. This handy tool will let another parent or guardian set rules and receive reports about your kid’s screen time use, meaning you can be sure it’s consistent wherever they are this summer.
3. Focus on creating the right balance, rather than prohibiting screen time
When it comes to how your kids interact with screens, a complete ban usually doesn’t work in your favor. From free reign to outright prohibition, Masip has seen the effects of screens on both ends of the spectrum.
“Set your rules and stick to them, all year long, ” says Masip. “You cannot just set rules up and walk away. We have to suggest activities, insist, be there for them, and spend time with them. This is absolutely key and really the golden rule of parenting when it comes to screen time. Keep in mind this does not mean NO screen time. Prohibiting screen time just leads to rebellion.”
4. Set limits and expectations before screen time starts
“Summer is a time for freedom, and it is fertile ground to create new habits…especially healthy ones,” says Masip.
If your kids don’t know what their limits are, it’s easy for them to spend longer on screens than you’d like them to. Be clear about what they can and can’t do before a session: “You can watch two TV shows today”, or “You can play Roblox for 30 minutes before lunch” allows them to understand how long they’ve got, and helps you to establish consequences if they overstep these limits.
5. Get outside
It’s a summer cliché, but the great outdoors can be a huge help when it comes to disconnection – both for you, and for your kids. What you’re really working towards is scheduling a time of day where every family member is screen-free, and making the most of time spent together.
If you can’t get outside, don’t worry. Play a board game, make smoothies, or do some arts and crafts. Fun doesn’t always have to be spontaneous, as much as we might think the opposite! In your daily routine, block out some downtime for family activities, or time with friends where nobody’s in front of a screen, and you’ll soon look forward to these offline moments together.
Creating a routine where screens feature less and less doesn’t have to be an uphill battle – instead of hard and fast rules, look to building healthier habits for the whole family. Screens and summer don’t have to go hand-in-hand, and by promoting intentional use, with clear expectations, you can start to enjoy more of those special family moments together.