Limit kids’ screen time during summer vacation out of the gate with this easy to follow method!
Summer vacation offers the amazing gift of down time! But that doesn’t mean your kids need to laze and glaze over a screen from Memorial Day through Labor Day!
As the saying goes, to fail to plan is to plan to fail: if you don’t actively manage your kids’ screen time, they will simply spend too much time in front of a screen.
It’s very easy to fall into a school’s-out slump and spend the first week of summer vacation lolling about, waiting for it to get hot enough to swim, waiting for friends who go to differerent schools to get out of school too, and otherwise and generally squandering perfectly good free, sunshiny hours.
The level of difficulty in getting oneself (and one’s family) out of a slump is directly revealed in the awful word itself: slump. slluuuummph.
It’s better to start summer vacation off right, with a few expectations about making the most out of the most wonderful time of the year!
No, “the most wonderful time of the year” is not Christmas time. It’s summer vacation. Remember when you were a kid? Summer was totally better than Christmas. But back then, we got like, two toys and mostly useful items for Christmas, not Target’s entire holiday toy book appearing larger than life in our living rooms on Christmas morning.
This is the easy method our family is using to put hard limits on screen time during summer vacation:
By “our family” I mean: Mom devised it, Dad doesn’t really care but he’ll go along with Mom’s plan in the spirit of self preservation, and the kids are aghast. By “easy” I mean: Easy to manage but you’ll need nerves of steel to keep it up all summer. You can do it.
How To Limit Kids’ Screen Time During Summer Vacation
in 6 easy steps, plus a bunch of explanations, caveats, and disclaimers.
1. Each kid gets six 30-minute screen time periods.
- Yes, that’s only 3 hours of screen time a week. (We do have a family movie night once a week; that’s bonus screen time.)
- You get to decide on the screen time limits for your own family.
- You may want to give older kids more (or less!) screen time than younger kids; my kids are 8 and 11 and they get the same amount of screen time.
- Real research (Googling a definition or the answer to a burning question) does not count against my kids’ screen time allowance.
- Looking at the new Lego sets online is specifically defined as “Not Research”.
- If a kid is coding an app or writing a book, that’s a totally different beast than passive screen time.
- Yes, playing educational apps is passive screen time.
- So’s Wii or Kinect.
- Even if they’re playing educational apps or Wii or Kinect together and getting along. My kids are totally welcome to play together and get along, but I’ll be taking tickets from both kids (and not looking the gift horse that is sibling harmony in the mouth.)
2. Each kid gets six screen time tickets that are reused each week throughout summer vacation.
- I happened to have raffle tickets on hand but scraps of paper will do just as well. Get as fancy as you want to, but it’s not about the tickets.
- Put each kid’s name on each of their tickets. I have 2 kids and I know there’s no way I can keep track of who watched what, for how long, and when. Imagine the brain cells required to keep track of the weekly screen time allowance for multiple kids!
- With this system, I set the screen time limits, my kids budget their allocated screen time however they want to, and the tickets keep track of all of it for me!
- Did you catch on when I slipped in “six tickets” even though a week has seven days? There is no reason in the world why every kid can’t live through at least one completely screen free day per week. So no matter how much time each of your tickets represents, your kids will run out of tickets before the end of the week.
3. You need 2 jars. Label one “Available” and the other “Used”.
- I leave it to you which jar to label “Miley Cyrus” if you want to get witty about it. Again, don’t overthink it; you’re just giving each kid in the family a tangible record of how much screen time he has used that week.
4. On Sundays, all of the screen time tickets go back into the “Available” jar.
- When one of my kids wants to use one or more screen time tickets, they just let me know. I hold the passwords to all devices, so they do have to let me know. [Maniacal laugh.]
- I set a timer, and they move the ticket(s) from the “Available” jar into the “Used” jar.
- No, you don’t have to wait until Sunday to start. If you start on a Saturday, just give them all of their tickets to use in one day, and see what happens.
- If you know what will happen, and what will happen is that they’ll stay glued to a screen until their eyes bleed, either you’ve allotted too much time per ticket (and therefore per week), or you haven’t planned to step outside. (Some place screens don’t belong, like a park or a pool or in the driveway washing the car or in the backyard pulling weeds.)
5. Once all of a kid’s tickets are used up, he’s hit his limit on screen time for the week.
- Yes, I’m serious.
- Yes, they may use up all 3 hours of their screen time in one glorious blowout if they want to.
- Yes, my 8-year-old daughter did exactly that on both the first and second weeks of our new limited screen time plan.
- We changed her name to The Girl Who Lived.
6. Really, this should be #1: Don’t even ask me if you can have screen time if your chores aren’t done and your teeth aren’t brushed.
- I used to have all sorts of hoops my kids had to jump through before they got to have screen time: get dressed, read a book, write, play piano, play with your friends, play outside, play with your toys, just play for the love of all things holy, etc.
But with a 3 hour limit on screen time each week, they’ll have plenty of time for all of that.
How much screen time do your kids get on summer vacation?
#1 How To Set Summer Vacation Screen Time Limits [You are here!]