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5 helpful ways to encourage your kids to go screen-free this summer

Posted June 2

Many parents want to restrict technology during the summer but don't want to fight with their kids every day. Here are some tips on keeping screens to a minimum while still keeping the peace. (Deseret Photo)

Soft fascination is the term scientists use for everything we experience in nature. And research from the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that experiencing all the great outdoors has to offer can alleviate stress.

Maybe you think your kids don’t have stress. But other terms to describe the benefits may seem more applicable, like "lower frustration" and "more relaxed." That sounds like a win to me. So we want our kids to get outside this summer. But that may go against what those children have on their bucket lists (binge watch Netflix, play Minecraft endlessly, Snapchat till they drop).

How do we control summer screen time without it turning into a huge argument each day?

Know what’s appropriate. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages limits for screen time depending on the age of the child. It highly discourages any screen time for children under the age of 18 months. As the mother of twins, though, I never condemn a parent who lets their littles veg out in front of Curious George for 30 minutes, no matter their age.

The AAP suggests high-quality educational shows and apps for children 18 to 24 months, and only when a parent is involved (again, see my above "never condemn" comment). For all other children, it suggests no more than one hour of screen time per day. Is this even possible? It might be, and here are some helpful ways to make it happen

No need to turn your home into “Little House on the Prairie”

Some parents can jump to the extreme of thinking an all-out ban on screens is a great way to keep kids active over the summer. Moms and dads have visions of clean, lovely children sitting at our feet as we read to them from the classics. A complete ban may be asking too much and may just backfire. A better approach is to simply be smart about how much you allow technology in your home for the next three months.

Create a plan

Get the whole family together and come up with some guidelines for the summer. Decide which chores need to be finished each day before anyone can turn to tech. The website Your Modern Family has a great example of a contract that requires chores, reading and writing in a journal before screen time. Another website, Sunshine and Hurricanes, also has a great contract idea that uses the if/then concept. If kids spend 30 minutes on certain activities (building with Legos or playing outside), then they can earn 15 minutes of screen time. The site points out that oftentimes the kids get so involved with the "if" activity, they play much longer than required and forget about the screen time altogether.

Ration the technology

Another way to limit screen time this summer is the dole-out method. Pinterest is full of printables for Technology Tickets. Each ticket is good for a set amount of screen time. At the beginning of each week, parents hand out the tickets to kids (and maybe keep a few on hand for rewards during the week). Once the tickets are gone, it’s bye bye screen time for the week. I love some of the rules I’ve seen like "no piggybacking." This means if a sibling is watching TV and another child joins in, they also have to turn in a technology ticket. Many parents also have decided that tickets must be used before a certain time of day to leave evenings tech-free.

Stockpile screen-free activities to suggest

Of course we want children to create playtime on their own when we tell them no screens. But set them up for success by having a go-to list of ideas for screen-free activities. Real Simple has some great choices, and you could easily come up with some on your own. These activities may need your guidance, or even your participation, but many can use your help getting them started, and then the kids take over from there.

Talk with other parents about your plan

None of these grand ideas will work if your child simply goes to a friend’s house and plays Xbox all day. So don’t be afraid to talk with the parents of your kids’ friends. No doubt they have screen-free limitation goals for the summer as well. If we all jump on board with reasonable, practical screen-time restrictions, it’ll be a lot easier to actually enforce them. It definitely takes a village to raise responsible digital citizens of the world.

Amy Iverson is a graduate of the University of Utah. She has worked as a broadcast journalist in Dallas, Seattle, Italy, and Salt Lake City. Amy, her husband, and three kids live in Summit County, Utah. Contact Amy on Facebook.com/theamyiverson

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