Screen time in the summer can’t be avoided altogether. But by setting summer screen time rules for kids you will have peace of mind, and they will have reasonable expectations when it comes to how much time they’re spending online.
We’re moments away from the final bell of the school year. Summertime is our favorite time of year with sunshine and swimming, backyard barbecues, and toasting marshmallows. After a whole lot of chaos during the school year, we’re ready to relax and unwind. These are the moments we’ve been waiting for!
There are vacations and summer bucket lists and extracurriculars. But it seems our kids want to spend their quality time being glued to their screens instead.
Because there is no class and no school routine, the kids seem to think screen time rules go out the window. Oh, I think not, my dearest, darling children. I mean, there is nothing wrong with having some time here and there, but chances are that unlimited summer screen time means your kiddos might miss out on some of the other fun in the sun.
To help you set and implement reasonable screen time rules, I created a checklist of sorts to help your family maintain the balance between screen time and other non-techy tasks. It’s a list of certain things that must be done each day of summer before kids can get their hands on anything that dings, pings, or streams.
And, no, I swear I’m not doing this to be a killjoy. There is a lot of research that’s been done around screen time that supports having a few rules in place.
There’s no harm in some summer screen time. I mean, I’ve even been guilty of binge-watching Netflix to the point I get the ‘are you still there’ message while I’m folding laundry. But first, I’m an adult, and second, not all screen time is created equally.
Monarch.com reminds us that there are four different ways we consume screen time. Typically that looks like creating content, communicating with others, interacting (like playing games), or passively consuming (please see the Netflix example above).
If your kids don’t have any balance or rules to manage their screen time consumption, they’d happily spend their days streaming and scrolling. And, likely, everything coming across their screen isn’t rich educational content. But even if it was, too much screen time can be detrimental.
While the quality of all screen time isn’t the same, the quantity still matters.
You know what they say: Too much of anything isn’t good. But the amount of screen time our kids should have, in part, depends on how old they are.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
- Children 18 months old or younger don’t benefit from screen time. Unless, of course, they’re video chatting with loved ones who are out of town.
- From over 18 months until they reach about 2-years-old, kids shouldn’t ideally have more than an hour of screen time per day. And the hour that they do spend should be spent with you learning. Think Daniel Tiger or Cocomelon.
- When kids are older, there are more ways they can consume and interact with tech. So try limiting their access by having screen-free zones, not keeping TVs or tablets in their room, or setting some standard screen time rules.
There are many different ways to go about setting rules with your kids that strike a balance between screen time and the rest of the day. I rounded up a couple ideas to aid you in setting your strategy and to help put this summer screen time rules checklist into action.
Morning Tasks Before Screen Time
Before anyone hops online, there are a few things that absolutely need to get done. Keeping with a routine, even in summertime, will keep screen time reasonable, but will also help the transition back into fall when it comes.
Every day to unlock some screentime, the kids have to:
- Make sure the beds are made.
- Eat breakfast. One that hopefully keeps them out of the kitchen for a while.
- Brush their hair and teeth to get ready to take on the day.
- Get dressed.
- Tidy up their rooms.
This is a sample morning routine that you can implement as part of your summer screen time rules, but feel free to adjust it for your own needs. The important thing is that kids do what they have to do, before doing what they want to do.
Reading Before Screen Time
Another awesome idea to add to your summer screen time rules is that your kids must read before using their electronic devices for the day.
It’s up to you how best to implement this screen time rule for kids, but I suggest setting a specific time interval that your kids must spend reading before they’re allowed to use their tablets or play video games each day. For instance, our own summer screen time rules include the rule that my kids must read for 30 minutes each day before they reach for their iPads or turn on YouTube Kids.
If they haven’t picked up a book, they can’t pick up their electronics.
This rule works really well in our home, and I even created some Summer Reading Challenges to make reading more fun for my kids!
Outside Time Before Screen Time
Summer is the perfect time to get your kids outside and off the couch, so why not make outside time mandatory before screen time?
Devices appeal to kids so much because they raise serotonin levels in the brain rapidly. Being outdoors where a lot of interesting activity is happening or there are a lot of things to see can help give this same effect, without the negative effects of screened devices.
So give your kids plenty of outdoor activities to help keep them busy without screens. When kids are having fun outside, they are unlikely to even think about their devices. From riding bikes to going on a Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt, there are many great things you can encourage your child to do that will help distract them from screens and make the most of the great summer weather.
One example of a summer screen time rule to add to your checklist could be “You must spend 45 minutes outdoors before you’re allowed to use your screens for the day.”
Earning Screen Time Privileges
A great way to set healthy limits on your kids’ summer screen time is to use their electronic devices as a reward.
This type of “pay to play” system can be easily customized to fit your needs and the ages of your kids, but giving kids different reward options is a great way to motivate them to complete their screen time checklist or their chore charts.
But that doesn’t mean they can rush to get everything done and then stay on the screen the entire day. Having a limit set for the morning, afternoon, and evening will strike a happy balance between screen time and getting the kids to complete chores (or other tasks).
Some examples of screen time rewards that you can implement with your summer screen time checklist are:
- Read for 30 minutes to earn 30 minutes of screen time.
- Complete your chores for the day to earn 30 minutes of screen time.
- Do something nice for a family member without being asked to earn 10 minutes of screen time.
- Play with your younger sibling to earn 10 minutes of screen time.
- Complete everything on your daily summer screen time checklist to earn 1 hour of screen time.
Other Summer Screen Time Rules to Add to Your Checklist
Want specific rules that you can include in your Before Screen Time Checklist printable? Here are some ideas:
- Make your bed
- Brush your teeth
- Brush your hair
- Get dressed
- Put your clothes in the dirty hamper
- Read for 30 minutes
- Build something for 30 minutes – This could be a creative activity like building with Legos, constructing a blanket fort, completing a puzzle, or building a Playdough masterpiece!
- Complete your chores for the day
- Clean up your toys
- Play outside for 30 minutes
- Write in your Gratitude Journal
These are all things that your kids can do before earning screen time each day. Or, if you prefer, you can split the screen time rules up into two sections: one set for before afternoon screen time and one set for before evening screen time.
Tips for Managing Kids’ Summer Screen Time
Besides setting screen time rules, there are other ways that you can limit your child’s screen time this summer:
Give your kids healthy alternatives to screens.
Encourage your child to spend more time reading, playing games, building something, or doing art instead of spending time on their electronic devices. But it’s up to you as a parent to ensure that your kids have access to non-screen related activities.
Offer plenty of physical books that do not require screens for reading, or take your kids to the library to pick out a few books to read each week. You can also set up comfy designated reading areas with bean bags, pillows, and blankets to give kids an enjoyable place to curl up with a good book.
Another great alternative to screen time is art! Keep plenty of art supplies on hand to allow your child the opportunity to get creative without using apps and games on their devices. For older kids, try arts and craft kits that teach them a new skill and help them create something amazing. You can find jewelry-making kits, knitting kits, and even woodworking kits for kids.
Or, look for new board games and outdoor play activities at local garage sales to give your kids plenty of alternatives to screen time without spending a fortune.
Be realistic and give yourself grace.
No matter how many plans you put in place or how many strategies you employ, sometimes things aren’t going to go according to schedule–and that’s okay. There will be days that they watch back-to-back reruns of iCarly. Or maybe you just let Blippy run for one more video because you finally had a moment to sit down.
Don’t forget, as much as your spouse and your kids think you’re supermom, you’re human too. So if your kids overshoot their summer screen time allowance three days in a row, don’t beat yourself up about it.
Show your child that other things are more important than screens.
Set an example for your kids. Let your kids see you spend time at home off of your devices. Kids tend to do what we do, rather than listen to what we say. To help your child learn to step away from devices you need to set an example for them by taking time away from your devices as well.
Take some time to play a game with your kids while your phone is on the charger, read a book where they can see, or hook your phone up to a speaker and play some music while you clean the house. Not only does this set an example for your child, but it is good for your own mental health as well.
Encourage screen time moderation.
Everything in moderation, right? And that includes summer screen time for kids!
If you try to cut out your child’s screen time altogether during the summer, then they’ll probably just end up resenting you. And let’s face it, you’ll probably be exhausted also without the Octonauts acting as a babysitter while you fold the laundry.
Instead, encourage moderation in your kids’ summer screen time. Allow them to watch a movie in the heat of the afternoon or let them use their tablets while sitting outside under a tree for half an hour. Figure out a screen time schedule that works for you, instead of just allowing your kids to watch YouTube or play video games all day every day.
Screen Time Rules Checklist Printable
Another way to effectively manage your kids’ screen time, whether it’s in the summer or during the school year, is to use a Screen Time Rules Checklist!
This printable Screen Time Checklist can be laminated and hung on your fridge to use again and again. And you can even type into the printable screen time rules checklist also!
*To be able to type in to the Screen Time Checklist PDF, you will need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader downloaded on your computer. Acrobat Reader is available to download for FREE from the Adobe website.
It is a well-known fact that kids are getting too much screen time these days, and that it is bad for their overall health. This is a major issue leading to lack of sleep, trouble concentrating, and even behavioral issues. While many kids need devices during the school year to complete assignments, summertime is a great opportunity to reduce your child’s screen time and get them to be more active and healthy while they have the chance.
And let’s face it, as wonderful as summertime can be with the kids home, it can be equally frustrating. Being interrupted 10 million times every half hour while you’re trying to get some work done is enough for even the most patient parents to lose their mind.
Like I said, we’re all human (me included). Fabulous, wonderful, supermom-like humans, but humans nonetheless. So give yourself some grace and set a few ground rules for the kiddos. After all, school is almost out, and the number one rule is to always have fun!
What kind of screen time rules do you have for summertime? How do you find balance? Leave me a comment down below and tell me all about it! And don’t forget to PIN this post for later.