Summer holidays used to be about sunshine, swimming and those hilarious facial tan lines your cousin got from wearing sunglasses everyday. Now kids spend most of their spare time chatting online, playing video games and watching videos. It’s decreased the risk of sunburn but it’s probably not how you want them to use their spare time. If you are like most parents the only screen you want your kids to be around is sunscreen. That was a terrible dad joke. Feel free to use it at your own risk.
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It may feel like a battle this summer but technology is not always the enemy. The enemy is the motivation for being on technology too much. It could be boredom, social isolation or a general lack of other options. Screen time isn’t always the first option for meeting these needs but if we aren’t careful it can become the default option. Sometimes screens are just what kids turn to when there’s nothing else to do. So here are five things you can do to take control of your child’s screen time these school holidays.
1. Go camping
Family holidays are where awesome memories of a lifetime are created. When you are all in a new environment together, you will create ways to fill the time. You will play cards, cook together, and argue over who bent all the tent pegs – but it will be fun.
Maybe your child will immediately begin searching for somewhere to charge their device but at least they are on an adventure. They might meet new friends on the same quest or climb a tree to get better reception. It might take a couple of days but eventually they might even enjoy being away from technology.
2. Have screen-free times at home (for you as well)
Children may seem like they are glued to their phones just for entertainment but every child is also desperate for connection. Their device gives them a digital fix for meeting that need. As much as phones connect us, they also disconnect us from people.
You could try picking certain times of every day this summer when the entire family goes screen-free. It’s like happy hour except you won’t serve alcohol and it might not sound very happy to begin with. It all depends on how you sell it! So don’t call it sad, sober, stone-age hour, instead call it forced family fun hour. Children love to feel included and connected to a bigger unit. One of the most empowering statements you can make is, “In our family we do this”. So let them know that you are all doing it together.
3. Photography scavenger hunt
Okay, so this will still involve your child looking at a screen. However, if you can’t beat ‘em, sneakily trick ‘em. This is a fun activity that will get children out of the lounge and into the real world for a while. They will think they are getting technology time but you are actually sending them on a quest that will remind you of your own childhood missions.
Write a list of things you want them to find, and to prove they have found them, they must take a photo of it. Send them as far into the world as you feel safe. Your list could include a roadworks sign, a tadpole, a soccer ball on a school roof or a selfie with an elderly neighbour. Anything you want to dream up.
4. Take control of the family wifi
If you learn how to change the family wifi password then you can hold it hostage and make demands. Invite a friend over, then you get the password. Beat me at backyard cricket, then you get the password. It is worth doing your research to work out what wifi control is best for you.
5. Make less rules
If you are choosing to enforce more rules around technology, then balance it out by allowing more freedom in other areas of their life. Kids still need to take risks and play games and hang out with friends. They just do most of that online now. But you can encourage them to do that offline by giving them more freedom to do so.
Tell them they can’t spend all day on the computer but have conversations about what it might look like to allow your age-appropriate child go to the mall by themselves, or bus to the beach, or stay up later. If you want to tighten your restrictions on screen time, then give them somewhere else that they can meet that need for boredom or socialising.
For more, check out Digi-parenting – a resource brought to you in partnership with Vodafone.
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