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Limiting Screen Time During Summer Break

Janelle Cox

For many young children, screen time is a very big part of their day. Not only are they using technological devices outside of the classroom, but they are also using them inside of the classroom. As research shows, the profound impact that screen time is having on brain development is causing schools across the country to grow concerned. Many school systems are taking the time to look at tech use inside of school as well as new, innovative approaches to technology. They are also encouraging students (and parents) to take a closer look at their own tech use. Here are a few suggestions that you can share with parents to help them balance screen time during summer break.

Help Children Track their Screen Time During Summer Break

In order for children to really understand how much they use technology, you can have them track their screen time the first week of summer break, before you implement any rules. If you have an IOS device, this will be quite easy, because it tracks the usage for you. All you have to do is go into your device and under settings, there is a subtopic called screen time where it shows how much time the user spends on specific apps. If you do not have an IOS device, then you can challenge children to track their own usage on a piece of paper for a few days, or even one week. Once you have the information, then you can sit down and talk about their usage. Discuss how they’re using their devices and how they feel. Talk about medical recommendations and set up a family screen time summer break plan.

Use Screen Time as an Incentive

Screen time can be used as an incentive. Use the motto, “Clean before screen.” Children can help out around the house to earn screen time instead of just getting it. Sweeping the floor or vacuuming can earn children 15 minutes of screen time, while emptying the trash or folding the laundry can earn 20-30 minutes. Children can also participate in activities, or go outside to earn more screen time. For example, riding their bicycle or playing a sport can get them 20 minutes of screen time. Continuing their learning, reading for 30 minutes, doing a worksheet, writing in a journal, or creating something by hand can also be an incentive that children can work toward to earn more screen time during the summer months.

Use a Timer

An easy way to monitor screen time usage during the summer is to use a timer. It’s easy to monitor when children are watching a television show because when it’s over, it’s over. However, when children use iPads or video games, they can go on until you shut them off. A timer can be a non-negotiable tool during screen time. When the timer goes off, so do the electronics.

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It’s important to know what the current screen time guidelines are in order to know how long to set a timer for. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, children under the age of 2 should have no screen time, while children over the age of 2 should only have 1-2 hours a day. This includes television, computers, video games, tablets, smartphones, etc. However, as a family you can take these recommendations and set your own media limits that work for your family. Keep in mind that the U.S. National Library of Medicine also states that too much screen time can cause sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, attention issues, and obesity. So it’s best to take their recommendations and use them wisely.

Take Tech Away for a Day

While the thought of losing screen time for any amount of time may sound devastating to a child or a teenager, try choosing one day a week during the summer months to be tech-free. On that tech-free day, spend the time doing something as a family that will create everlasting memories. You will never regret spending time with your loved ones, and the children may even find that they didn’t miss their devices as much as they thought they would.

Make Technology Hard to Get

If children have access to their devices all of them time, then they will be more apt to want to use it. Make tablets, iPods, laptops, and computers hard to find. Put them in a locked room where children will have to ask permission before they use it. Temptation will be limited if they don’t know where to find it.

Remember, practice what you preach. If you expect your children not to use their devices at the dinner table, then you shouldn’t either. You are a role model, and children look up to you for guidance. Create a media plan that works for you and your family -- you can always adjust your plan to meet your needs.

Do you limit screen time in your home? If so, what have you found works best for your family? How does your school limit screen time?


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a master’s of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the elementary education expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.