Getting your kids off screens this summer

by Gerry Waters, on May 29, 2021 4:44:26 PM

Whew! For all those who have kids, teach or counsel kids... we made it!  We've just reached or are nearing the finish line of the hardest school year in living memory - congratulations!  Here's to a summer of FUN, and away from the screens that have dominated their lives for months, for both school and leisure time. Here are a few tips (courtesy of Active Minds), to help out.

Be a Role Model

amy-humphries-F3Bqv1WpalA-unsplash"Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work for kids. Parents can nag or try to reason with children to get off devices, laptops, and television, but the reality is that while your kids may not always listen to what you say, they are always watching what you do. The first step in this process is to check your own use of screen time. If you notice you’re spending more time than you should on screens, let your children see how you deal with this. Explain to them the changes you are making to find balance in your own life.


Use a positive approach

Resist the urge to offer or take away devices as a punishment or reward. Dangling the prospect of screen time to get your kids outside and active may reinforce the impression that playing outside isn’t as desirable as playing with screens. It also doesn’t help to promote self-monitoring behaviors in children. Present screen time as something to enjoy in moderation—just one of many activities that are part of the day.  


Set up a schedule (that you can stick to!)

Talk to your child and work together on creating boundaries around screen time. Ask questions like: What do you like to do best on your devices? Are there certain times of day when you prefer to watch movies or play games? When do you think screens should not be allowed?

Block off time during the day when screens are not permitted, such as at mealtimes, and ensure your child has lots of time for other activities they enjoy. 

The ultimate goal is to coach your child to be more mindful of their choices around screens, and empower them with the tools to make good decisions. Set your child up for success by creating a schedule together that allows them to know when they can switch on their devices, and when they should play outside or do other activities.


Encourage your kids to do what they love

Once they’ve put those devices down, it’s time for some real fun! Physical activity is so much more enjoyable when you do what you love. Encourage children to engage in the outdoor activities that they like, whether that’s going for a bike ride, skateboarding, skiing, swimming, or playing a round of golf.

This will help them develop positive and healthy relationships with exercise. They’re more likely to make physically active play a regular part of their day as a result. 


Join in the fun

Toss your phone aside, and join in the fun! Playing together is a great way to bond with your child, and it creates lifelong memories. Spending time as a family will also encourage everyone to be more active at home.

At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to screen time and encouraging physical activity. It may take time to find what works best for you, your children, and your family, but it’s definitely time well-spent.

Need more help with balance? Our film LIKE breaks down the reasons why social media in particular is so addictive, and gives long-term strategies as well as quick hacks to break free from the phone so we can focus on 'real' life. LIKE is part of our Mental Health Trilogy, 3 film-based programs that help adolescents and their families build the resilience and skills for healthier, more connected and happier lives.  Angst focuses on de-stigmatizing and de-mystifying anxiety,  and The Upstanders on collectively pushing back against cyber-bullying and abuse. These hopeful, life-changing programs reach communities around the world, and we'd love to help yours!