Summer is here. School is out. And so it begins. The arguments over the video games, smart phones and computers are in full gear. So here is my advice: Turn off the screens. Just turn them off. No debating. As parents you are in charge. That is so important and so overlooked these days that I feel the need to say that again louder. AS PARENTS YOU ARE IN CHARGE! You are the ones given the job of deciding what is best for your kids and making it happen to the best of your ability. In 1965 the typical American spent 10 1/2 hours per week watching TV. Today the average 9 year old American child spends more than 50 hours per week in front of a screen. The average American teenager spends over 70 hours per week in front of a screen. We are just beginning to learn what impact this is having on our children, including rises in childhood obesity, attention problems, and behavior problems, as well as a decline in social skills, family relationships, and a big problem with kids not getting enough sleep.
You can not leave it to your children to monitor their own use of screens any more than you can leave it to them to choose broccoli over chocolate cake. Parents have to set the limits. And it’s not easy. But you can do it. Here are a few suggestions:
- Remove screens from your child’s bedroom and insist that they turn in to you all electronics at a certain time each night. (Parents determine the time!)
- Tell the kids what the summer rules about electronic use will be. It may be they can have screen time at a certain time each day. Or only on weekend evenings, or whatever works for you. But don’t make it complicated or you won’t be able to enforce the limits. And you have to enforce the limits once you have set them.
- Do not allow screens during mealtimes or in the car when you’re all together. Have a conversation!
- Get outside and have fun with your kids.
- Once you have set the rules do not debate them. End of discussion.
Expect some pushback from your kids if you have not set limits on screen time in the past. But once you’ve set the rules stick to them and who knows what creative, fun, experiences your family may be in for this summer.