If you are like my family, you love basking in the pleasure of summer break. There are no tests, science fair projects, homework, or anything else that resembles school. This also means your child is at home all day long, everyday, with lots of idle time on his or her hands.
We all know what the idle mind of a twelve year old can become. When I was a pre-teen (without cable television), there was little time for idling in the summer. There were too many forts to be built, ballgames to be organized, and bike rides to the library for my mind to stop before it hit the pillow at night. Sadly, in a culture driven by technology, those active pastimes are largely in the past.
Today’s tweens have traded hours of exercise and exploration for endless hours of video games, texting, web browsing, and movie watching. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, if your child is like the typical teenager, they now spend 9.5 hours a day plugged in to entertainment. That number has the potential to skyrocket during the summer, especially if they are at home alone.
This issue is a recurring (almost daily) conversation with our kids. I don’t expect them to understand the importance of time management or to have mastered the discipline to know when enough is enough. In the middle of a summer day my wife can walk in the living room and say, “Okay guys, that’s enough TV. Let’s turn it off.” Not ten minutes later if she walks through again the TV is back on, but this time they are playing video games. It never registers in their brains that what she really meant was to turn off all the screens for awhile. If we left it up to them, they would be fine sitting in front of the computer watching Netflix all day. But when we help them make other plans such as swimming with friends, they always have a great time. Our kids enjoy being active, but it’s almost as if technology has altered their brains so that screens are the default mode.
I’m assuming you are already helping your kid achieve a sense of balance in other areas of life. You help them get a good amount of sleep. You make sure they have a balanced diet. You’ve taught them to clean up and take responsibility for their room. But for whatever reason when summer rolls around, you don’t have a game plan when it comes to technology. It’s not too late for a fresh start. Here are a few tips to set healthy boundaries for your child or teenager during the summer months and to cut off the inevitable grumbling before it happens:
Summer doesn’t have to be a frustrating season for you or your teen, but it will require some creativity and planning on your part. My wife actually sits down with each of our kids in the spring to help them put some events on their summer calendar and think through what they would like to do or accomplish. We’ve learned that if we don’t have a plan, technology will control our family instead of the other way around.
Releases June 20