In a few weeks, school will be out for the summer and parents everywhere are wondering: “How in the world will we keep our children occupied with all that free time?” And even more parents are thinking “How will I keep my child safe online when there will be so many more occasions for digital play?”
As a parent of a teenager, you have faced digital challenges all year long, from teenagers multi-tasking on IM, while doing Google searches (and swearing that they were doing homework), watching the latest videos and tweeting at the same time. Parents of younger children have had a tough year trying to figure out which app was the best educational tool or how to put screen limits on those tablets. Parents of toddlers are just trying to get their head around all this digital parenting stuff and they are still wondering why their 2-year old keeps swiping the television screen.
Of course, it’s normal to be concerned that the advent of summer means an increase in online activity: our children will be surfing the net, watching YouTube, taking out monsters in various online games, chatting with school friends who are far away, downloading new apps to play, posting photos and videos and growing roots in front of Netflix (TV does count as screen time and TV series are notorious for exploding screen limits.)
But summer doesn’t have to be a digital battle and if you’re aware of the issues that lead to too much screen time, then you’re already a step ahead of the game. A lot of children and teenagers turn to screens because of boredom, anxiety, or loneliness.
So how can we reduce screen times and still have a stress-free, fun-filled summer? Keep reading.
- Schedule plenty of activities. Find summer activities that your children will enjoy: cooking class, photography lessons, museum treasure hunts. Short of ideas? Tons of parenting websites have summer lists like, Parenting.com or Care.com. Even Martha Stewart has chimed in.
- Include some educational apps and games. Any parent who has spent hours on a plane or train, understands that sometimes, a little tech can be a very good thing indeed. So to fill-up some travel time (after those coloring books, card games and patty-cakes are exhausted), look at these educational apps: They help your preschooler and primary school-age children learn by playing. Whether it’s math, shapes of objects, letters – there’s an app for that. If you child is a gamer, then take your pick, between math games, reading games, puzzle games and more. Just make sure to check the ratings and age appropriateness for the game. And also turn off those in-app purchase settings, just in case.
- Remind kids of safety procedures. Just because it’s summer, doesn’t mean all safety measures are thrown out the window. And in fact, safety measures should be reminded and reinforced, as everyone tends to be lax during vacation. FOSI experts offer some great tips and tools on safety and privacy.
- Communicate and keep your humor. Keep talking with your children about their day and what they did online. And no matter what the response, keep your calm and your humor. As long as the craziness is harmless, it’s all part of summer fun.
- Keep your tech in shape. Keep your digital toys updated, with passwords in place. And of course don’t forget your charger and adapter for travel.
Whatever the age of your child and however you want to mix and match your summer activities, keeping a digital plan in mind is a good digital parenting strategy to keep you sane and to keep your kids safe online.
Cover image courtesy of Flickr.