17 Summers: Screen Time Sanity Through All Ages & Stages

by | Jun 3, 2022


17 summers. That’s how long I’ve been at this—working to keep my kids playing, giggling, dreaming, and feeling the grass under their feet during the summer months.

In many ways, it’s harder today to keep kids engaged in real life than it was 17 years ago. Screens are everywhere.

But it’s not impossible. 

As I look back at our summers, there are some guiding principles that have helped us stay grounded and keep tech in check over the summer.☀️

Today I’m sharing my top tips for all ages and stages—young kids, teens, and the entire family—so parents can stop feeling like the tech police and kids can stay kids.

Screen Time Tips for the Entire Family

  • Summer screen time sanity starts with YOU. How can you prepare mentally? How can you prepare your environment?
  • Your family’s summer screen time plan doesn’t have to look different than any other time of year. More time = More time to be a kid. Yes, kids have more free time, but that just means more time to explore, adventure, learn, and to enjoy childhood.
  • Gather your family and make a plan together.
  • Prepare for boredom. Make a list of ideas for down timeMany people say “let them be bored.” I agree, but you must prepare for it–mentally and physically. We can all plan a vacation, a screen-free camping trip, but what will kids do when you have to catch up on life or need to do work? Boredom breeds creativity…but sometimes kids need a nudge. Make a list together and put it on the fridge.
  • Create a regular summer routine for the days when you’re home. You can make a copy our simple Google Doc printable and edit it to fit your family’s needs. I print these out as a half sheet of paper on card stock, laminate, and put on mini clipboards for my younger kids.
  • Don’t use screen time as a reward. This gives screens too much power in your home. Read more about that HERE!
  • Make reading a part of your summer by encouraging the kids to set a personal reading goal! Print out a fun reading chart for everyone to help fill in, let everyone choose a personal goal, and celebrate when everyone reaches their goal. We love Everyday Reading’s chart here and resources from Make Reading Fun.
  • Decide on one screen-free day (or more!) per week and a few screen-free weeks! Maybe texting is allowed, but no movies, games, or other optional tech. Need some encouragement? Use our 7-Day Connection Reset here.
  • Put your focus on goals, dreams, skills, service, and down time. Our Summer Screen Time Survival Guide will help your kids get started!

Screen Time Tips for Young Children

  • Have a daily screen-free quiet time. My kids did quiet time for many years…we gradually gave it up once my oldest was around 12. Then I started putting myself in quiet time. 😉 Learn more about quiet time from April Perry here and Rachel Nielson on 3 in 30 podcast here.
  • What season are you in? Can you go screen-free? If not, strive for better screen time.
  • Realize you hold the power at this phase of your kids’ lives. Use it well.
  • Make play and connection the focus of your days.
  • Keep a secret stash of down time activities for all ages. If you decide to go screen-free, then have other options available for those times when you’re at home and need to catch up. Things like crafts, audiobooks, outdoor toys, or a spot where they can dig in the yard.
  • Make screen time predictable if you allow it. Decide on a certain day, time of day, and allotted time for screens. If you want to prevent it from becoming a habit, alternate days so it’s not a daily occurrence.
  • Opt for passive screen time (slow-moving TV show) over interactive touch screens for kids younger than 6. 
  • Use a visual timer for screen time. When time is up, reward your kids with YOUR time.
  • Be consistent. If screens are a ‘sometimes’ event in your home, eventually your kids will stop asking. REALLY.

Screen Time Tips for Teens

  • Create clear tech boundaries with your teen at the beginning of the summer. If your teen has a phone, what is their purpose in using it? How will they communicate with friends? If you allow consuming on tech, (YouTube, gaming, etc.), when is it okay to do that and for how long? Our course Untangling Teens & Tech can help with this!
  • Use tech to manage the tech. Our router shuts off our Wi-Fi at 10:30 p.m. on weekdays. This helps everyone be accountable. Use Apple’s Screen Time and Android’s Digital Wellbeing to set limits and use parental controls on additional devices.
  • Give your pre-teens and teens responsibilities. Encourage them to get a job or to work for you. They are at the perfect age to learn new skills and to earn money for the future.
  • Let your teens lead and help them prioritize goals and skills off a screen. Get them started by working together to brainstorm goals, dreams, skills, and service. Use our Summer Screen Time Survival Guide to help them get started!
  • Promote face-to-face friend time. Teens will be much happier, creative, and be more likely to try new hobbies when spending time with friends. 
  • Be consistent with your family tech plan, including tech bedtimes, and keeping screens out of bedrooms/bathrooms.
  • Talk to your teen about self-awareness. How do they feel when they spend a lot of time on screen? If they start to feel depressed or anxious, what changes can they make with their screen use that might help?
  • Be curious, not critical. Rather than assuming your teen is mindlessly using a screen and wasting time, be curious—ask them what they are doing.
  • Help your teen create personal tech boundaries so they can eventually learn to be in the driver’s seat of a device. Teens are starting to use screens for legitimate reasons just like you—calendaring, connecting, banking, scheduling appointments, work, homework, and more! Talk about positive uses of tech and help your teen decide how they use tech with purpose.

If you’d like some help getting started, check out our Summer Screen Time Survival Guide below! Let your kids and teens guide summer, make a screen time plan, and quit feeling like the screen time police. 😉

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