Managing Screen Time During the Summer

The summer season is here. While some parents cherish these snapshots of wonder and discovery, many struggle with trying to make their child’s summer low-key, fun and educational amidst the cries of boredom.

According to a report from the American Psychological Association, Psychologist John Eastwood, PhD, of York University in Toronto said that, “boredom is the unfulfilled desire for satisfying activity.” What this means is that a child experiencing killer doldrums doesn’t necessarily have nothing to do; he just may not be engaged or connected with the choices available. Unfortunately, this can lead to impulsive and negative behaviors brought on by lack of stimuli.

Studies have shown that during the summer months, many children suffer a deficit in learning that can be attributed to having too much time on their hands. To be more specific: too much screen time in front of the TV, computer or video monitor.

While there isn’t a crystal ball to tell us how much technology is too much for kids, there are some guidelines you can establish by limiting the amount of screen time your child is allowed and monitoring their usage. When the time is up, make sure they have another activity to do such as reading a book, riding their bikes or playing with Legos.

DVDs and Movies

When you do allow screen time, make it fun and educational – without the kids’ knowledge, of course. For example, rent DVDs featuring movies that have been adapted from children’s classic literature such as the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or Doctor Doolittle. Afterwards, the kids may be more open to reading the books together. Some TV show and movies are educational – especially old Disney movies. If possible, record them on the DVR so that you can fast forward through commercials promoting sugary snacks and expensive toys.

Home Computer

Use the home computer for more than just playing games by showing your child how to have fun with the Paint program by morphing pictures into interesting graphics. Older children will have fun using Windows MovieMaker, iMovie or Picasa, which are all free programs. Desktop publishing software can be creatively used to make cards, calendars and homespun books.

Video Games

Believe it or not, lots of computer games can be fun without being violent. They should geared towards open-ended exploration or problem solving such as historical or puzzle games. JumpStart has a large selection of online computer games that focus on math and language.

Get Physical

If you are unable to get outside to play, video games and DVDs can bring the outside in. For example, Wii games like Guitar Hero, Clone Wars and other sports-related games can be lots of fun while definitely breaking a sweat. And there are a number of DVDs designed to enhance children’s cognition with physical activity.

Unplug

Before the end of the day, make sure everyone literally unplugs from the television and computer at least 30 minutes before bedtime. The light from the screen stimulates the brain and can cause chronic sleep issues making it difficult for anyone (children and adults) to fall asleep.

Finally, if your child continues to struggle with boredom, is listless and unfocused, or has behavioral issues, please talk to a qualified psychologist who can help identify any underlying issues and bring harmony back into the family.