Did you feel the seismic shift this week as most families went from a school to a summer schedule? The excitement is palpable. A sense of levity has permeated every nook and cranny of my teenager’s world while a sense of panic is slowly rolling into mine. Summer signals sand, surf, and—let’s be honest—far more hours a day allotted for Snapchat. A recent poll conducted by Common Sense Media found that 50% of teens admitted they “feel addicted” to their mobile devices. So, this mom is all about keeping that number from going up, at least in our home.
5 Summer Tech Monitoring Tips for Busy Parents:
- Agree on summer ground rules. Ground rules for summer might be different from the rest of the year, depending on your family’s schedule. Establishing a plan for chores, exercise, reading and waking up, puts expectations in play as well as consequences. To keep the tech in check, consider a tech exchange. For every hour of screen or gaming time, require your child to do something else productive. Keep it fun: Several chore-tracking apps exist that allow you to set up a reward system for completed chores. Use this “ground rule” time to discuss the positive as well as the negatives of technology from everyone’s point of view. Knowing the “why” behind the ground rules will set everyone up for success. Be sure to reinforce the ground rules before they spend large chunks of time at friends’ homes where technology limits may not exist.
- Engage their hands elsewhere. The best way to reduce screen time is to carve out opportunities that put something other than a phone in your kids’ hands. Keep your child active in sports, camps, a hobby, or with a job. A great app to help teens find summer job listings in their community is SnagAJob. Another great place to engage is DoSomething.org, the country’s largest not-for-profit for young people and social change. The site encourages teens and young adults to get involved locally and nationally in causes such as bullying, animal cruelty, homelessness, the environment and cancer, among other causes.
- Set a tech curfew. If the lights are out, technology should be too. More and more studies show the physical toll technology takes on teens who overdo their tech. Just because your child is in bed at night does not mean she is asleep. The ability to face time, text and surf on mobile devices endlessly zaps kids of sleep and a sense of digital boundaries. Establish a ‘devices off’ rule starting an hour before lights out.
- Keep weekly monitoring up. Just because it’s summer don’t get lax on regular device monitoring. Keep up with your child’s favorite apps, understand how she’s using them, and the friends she’s connecting with on a regular basis. Review privacy settings and reinforce the importance of keeping location details private over the long, sometimes boring summer months. Always be on the lookout for new app icons and know what’s behind them. Look for apps that could be dating, private messaging, or video streaming apps and be sure you understand how your child is using them. Talk to your kids about the risks and encourage them to use the social networks that you’ve both agreed on.
- Make great memories. Yes, summer opens the door to more screen time, but scarier than that is missing out on the chance to make beautiful memories with your family. Summer break is a gift so use the hours wisely. Get proactive with summer activities. Get outside as much as possible. Try your hand at fishing, canoeing, or hiking some new trails together. Lastly, assume the best of your teen and her online activities.How is your family planning to curb its screen time this summer? Please share your ideas!
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures).