Tech & Media

How To Manage Screen Time In The Summer

Jun 20, 2016

Summer with kids is crazy, amazing, busy, hilarious and chaotic.

It's always been that way. I usually get through the summer months by remembering that my mom and grandmother had to do this too—and they did it without relying on TV, portable DVD players and iPads.

I want to replicate that kind of summer for my kids: I want their childhood to be about more than what's presented to them on a screen!

Now that my kids are a bit older, I can look back at past summers and share what worked (and what didn't) when it came to summer screen time, media consumption and limits. 

When we turned everything off, we often had closer, richer and happier moments as a family.

And I would like to clarify that there were definitely days—many early mornings, in fact—when I snoozed on the couch while the kids watched Snow White for the 100th time. It’s ok to do that, but I found that when we turned everything off, we often had closer, richer and happier moments as a family.

No Nagging

It never helps to nag. In fact, the very act of nagging may be directly proportional to any eyeball rolling that occurs as a result. Telling kids to shut off the TV or iPad isn’t enough.

Nip temptation in the bud by keeping kids occupied before they think about turning on a device. These are a few summer activities that kept my kids busy:

  • Taking regular trips to the library to borrow giant stacks of books
  • Hosting comic book swaps between friends
  • Stocking up on new colouring books and craft supplies
  • Enjoying playdates and outdoor activities; both planned and unplanned. By UNPLANNED, I mean that I just opened the back door and told the kids to find something to do outside.

Distract, Distract, Distract

It really helps to think about when the most media consumption occurs, then plan other activities for that same time.

Do your kids watch a lot of TV in the evenings? How about going to the park instead? Or signing the kids up for swim lessons? Or digging some of your favourite board games out of the basement? Or how about making a list called What to do instead of watching TV?

You'll Also Love: How To Set Screen Time Rules That Work

Cut the Cable

Cutting cable for the summer worked for us. We moved out of our home last year because it was being renovated and chose not to get cable in our temporary apartment.

I was worried about going cable-free for five months, but it turned out just fine. Somehow we all managed without it!

No cable meant that we did more things together as a family.

No cable meant that we did more things together as a family: we took more walks, spent more time at the park, and visited with friends and family. And we watched more movies together too. It was kind of amazing.

Use Technology To Your Advantage

A PVR (Personal Video Recorder) can be your best friend. It may be an extra expenditure on top of your regular cable bill, but it's been worth it for us.  

The kids set up recordings of their favourite shows and that’s what they are allowed to watch. That’s it.

This rule prevents long periods of channel surfing and zoning out in front of the TV (plus, the PVR allows us to skip commercials, which is something I really appreciate!).

Set Screen Time Limits On Devices

Some families find it helpful to set screen time limits for kids. Any ol' timer will work.

If you're concerned about phone or tablet use, you can try a third-party app that sets limits on a device:

  • Screen TimeWith Screen Time, you can assign daily minute allowances for multiple children. Allowances can be set to repeat each day or accumulate based on your preferences. 
Kids can also earn screen minutes and give up their minutes for other activities and rewards.
  • Our Pact: Allows parents to manage their children’s screen time at any time, from anywhere. By pairing your family’s iPads, iPhones and iPods to OurPact, parents can manage the entire family’s screen time & device use from one place.
  • Dinner Time Plus: An app that lets parents set limits for how long kids can use an app or device, block certain apps and see which apps kids are using in real time. 

Some apps come with built-in parental controls; for example, the YouTube Kids app lets parents set a timer that gives kids a friendly notification when their time is up (instructions here). 

On top of all these tips, it definitely helps to be a good role model. If I’m lounging around all day watching TV or glued to my tablet, I can’t realistically expect my kids to stay away from screens!

So what about your family? How do you manage media and stay sane? I’d love to hear how you balance your media consumption over the summer months!

Add New Comment

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.