Jeremy Edge, LPC
How to Set Healthy Screen Time Boundaries This Summer
Screens can easily take over a child’s entire summer. Kids want to do something to keep from being bored and screens are a solution. It’s easy entertainment that can last forever. It's great for us parents too because we can enjoy some much needed peace and quiet.
While screens can monopolize free-time during the summer, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Kids miss out on the benefits of exercise, real-life socialization, and enjoying the local water park. Kids can socialize through games they play online, but they miss out on real-life interactions. It is unhealthy for kids to have unlimited time on screens.
With screens being such a great source of entertainment, what can a family do to fight against the norm of over screen use during the summer? Here are 4 things you can do to set screen time boundaries with your child.
1. Set Clear Screen Time Rules
Kids will do something fun until they are cut off. It’s the parent’s job to set rules for screen use. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends 2 hours of screen use per day. It’s best if the screen time is educational and you interact with your child to reinforce the lessons. Using screens strictly for entertainment is fine, just in moderation. Come up with a set amount of time you are comfortable with.
It’s also beneficial to set clear expectations of screen use. Are screens allowed at the dinner table? Can your child use screens prior to completing their responsibilities? What are the rules for screen time outside of the home? It’s important to lay out clear screen use expectations for your kids.
As you enforce screen time boundaries and expectations, make sure you are setting a good example with your own screen time. Our kids won’t follow our rules if we are setting a double standard.
2. Engage in Healthy/Fun Activities
Once you set boundaries and expectations, direct your kids to fun activities to fill their time. They should be part of this brainstorming process. Focus on activities that are educational, physical, creative, and/or social. They could learn a new skill, draw, explore outside, make a scrapbook, spend time with family, read, go to the pool, or have a friend over. Replace the countless hours of screen time with activities and experiences that add value to their life.
3. Reinforce Boundaries
We need to make sure to reinforce the boundaries previously set. Your child knows what is expected of them, they have engaging activities, now they just need to do those things. It’s easy at this point for kids to test limits. Stay consistent with what your rules are. Some ways you can enforce boundaries are through positive and negative reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement is giving your child a reward to following the rules. An example could be letting them spend an extra hour with their friends. Negative reinforcement is taking away a privilege when rules and boundaries are broken. An example could be no screen time or grounding.
Your words can express positive or negative reinforcement too. Giving praise and encouraging words is positive reinforcement. Saying how much you did not like their choice of breaking the rules is negative reinforcement. Positive and negative reinforcement are effective tools to reinforce boundaries with your child’s screen time.
4. Be Fun
The last thing to help set healthy screen boundaries is to have fun interacting with your child. Be silly, goofy, and make jokes with them. Have fun interacting. This will help your child learn natural relationships can be fun and they don’t have to involve a screen.
Make chores or tasks fun. If you are making dinner, bring your child over and let them help. Let them cook as you teach and show them what to do. Put on some music and enjoy the time together. Chores need to be done, but they don’t have to be boring if we are intentional.
Setting screen time boundaries can be hard. Rely on the supports around you. Ask for help when you need it. Be encouraged, these boundaries will make a positive difference in your child’s life this summer.