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  • Writer's picturePaula Robertson

Summertime Screentime

Tips for healthy screentime balance over the long holidays



As the long summer holidays approach, many parents find themselves grappling with the challenge of managing their children's screentime. With the allure of video games, social media, and endless streaming content, screens can quickly dominate a child's day. While technology has its benefits, excessive screentime can lead to a host of issues, from disrupted sleep patterns to decreased physical activity. Here’s a guide to help parents set healthy screentime limits while ensuring a fun, balanced, and engaging summer for their children.


Understanding the Impact of Screentime

Before diving into strategies, it’s important to understand why managing screentime is crucial:


Physical Health: Prolonged screentime is often linked to a sedentary lifestyle, which can contribute to obesity and related health issues.

Mental Health: Excessive use of screens can increase anxiety, depression, and reduce the ability to focus.

Sleep Disruption: The blue light emitted by screens can interfere with sleep patterns, making it harder for children to fall asleep and get quality rest.

Social Skills: Too much time on screens can limit face-to-face interactions, impacting the development of essential social skills.


Practical Tips for Managing Screentime:

Set Clear Limits and Be Consistent

Establish clear rules about when and for how long your children can use screens each day.  For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests no more than one hour of high-quality programming a day for children aged 2 to 5, and consistent limits for older children.

  • Create a Schedule: Outline specific times for screentime, such as after chores or homework, and stick to it. Consistency is key.

  • Use a Timer: Employing a timer can help children manage their own screentime. Set it for the allotted period, and make sure they know what they need to do once the time is up.


Encourage Alternative Activities

Provide a variety of engaging alternatives to screens:

  • Outdoor Play: Encourage outdoor activities like biking, swimming, or playing at the park. Physical activities are crucial for healthy development.

  • Creative Projects: Set up arts and crafts stations, puzzles, or building blocks to stimulate creativity.

  • Reading Time: Create a reading nook with a selection of books that interest your child. Make reading a part of their daily routine.


Be a Role Model

Children often emulate their parents' behavior. If they see you constantly on your phone or watching TV, they're likely to do the same.

  • Practice What You Preach: Limit your own screentime and engage in activities with your children. Show them that you value time spent away from screens.

  • Family Screen-Free Time: Establish times when the whole family puts away their devices, such as during meals or an hour before bedtime.


Designate Screen-Free Zones

Creating specific areas where screens are not allowed can help control usage:

  • Bedrooms: Keep screens out of children’s bedrooms to avoid unsupervised late-night usage and ensure better sleep.

  • Dining Areas: Make mealtimes about family conversation and connection, rather than screen distractions.


Educate About Online Safety

With older children, it's essential to have conversations about online safety:

  • Discuss the Risks: Talk about the potential dangers of the internet, such as cyberbullying and inappropriate content.

  • Set Privacy Rules: Teach them about privacy settings and the importance of not sharing personal information online.


Use Parental Controls

Utilize the parental controls available on devices and apps to manage what content your children can access and how long they can use their devices.


Strategies for a Balanced Digital Diet:

Plan Screen-Free Days

Incorporate days into your week that are entirely screen-free. Use these days to explore new hobbies, visit local attractions, or enjoy family outings.

Involve Children in Planning

Let your children be a part of planning their daily activities. When they feel involved, they're more likely to be enthusiastic about non-screen activities.


Conclusion

Managing screentime during the long summer holidays doesn’t have to be a constant battle. By setting clear limits, encouraging a variety of activities, and being a good role model, you can help your children enjoy a balanced and healthy summer. Remember, the goal is not to eliminate screens entirely but to create a healthy relationship with technology that allows for plenty of physical activity, creative play, and family bonding time.


Enjoy the holidys!

Be well,

Paula



Dr  Paula Robertson is a busy mom and a paediatrician with over twenty years' experience working with young people and their families. She is also a certified children's mindfulness teacher and Positive Discipline Parenting

coach. You can find out more at www.paulathedoctormom.com.

Our AI wellness assistant has contributed to the writing of this article.

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