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Emotional Resilience

4 Fun Ways to Ditch Devices and Embrace Summer Adventures

This is a guest post by Brittany Homer, founder of Project STAND — a program that can be organized at local middle schools or even at home. STAND Week is a powerful, student-led, media safety initiative that empowers middle school students to make healthy media choices. See Brittany's bio at the bottom of the page for more information.

Like most kids, mine LOVE amusement parks. When they know the opportunity to go on thrill rides as a family is in our summer plans, they get so excited! Their anticipation continues to build until the moment they climb into a roller coaster, pull down the safety bar, and start making the climb up the tracks. 

As we speed around the course, we might get a little whiplash, a little nausea, and a hoarse throat from screaming, but we also get the thrill of speed, a sensation of weightlessness, a rush of adrenaline, and maybe even goofy pictures of ourselves! After the ride we talk and laugh about our experience. What an adventure!

Managing screen time over the summer can also be an adventure – one that may be less anticipated. But it doesn’t have to be something that fills you with worry and dread. Here are a few ideas to help you look forward to your summer, screens and all.

#1 Fill your summer with screen-free plans

Like building anticipation for a trip to an amusement park, start by filling your summer with screen-free plans. I like to sit down with my kids and ask them, “If you could do anything this summer, what would you do?” 

We create a Family Summer Bucket List that includes things like:

  • camping 
  • hiking to a waterfall
  • going to a water park 
  • sleeping in the backyard 
  • having a water balloon fight 
  • going on a road trip to visit extended family 
  • setting up a lemonade stand 
  • and more! 

Get kids excited for summer by supporting their adventurous, non-screen ideas! 

#2 Decide what role screens will play

Once you have decided on some of the active things you will do, talk about the role that screens will play in your summer. One of my favorite summers was the one where my family went screen-free! We decided the only time we were going to use screens (outside of necessity), was for family movie night, once a week. 

At first it was painful for my kids, but after a detox period, they came alive! The old adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” played out in a very real (and fun) way for our family. 

Regardless of the role you decide to let screens play in your family, the important thing is that you decide. Be intentional about the who, what, when, where, why, and how of screen time. Help your kids’ frontal lobes develop by teaching them to make a plan and take ownership of their tech choices. Don’t let screens creep in where they weren’t invited.

Related: Family Digital Detox: 5 Truths We Learned on the Appalachian Trail

#3 Set up filters and parental controls

No one goes on a roller coaster without the proper safety restraints. Likewise, our kids should never go online without filters and parental controls in place. With the average age of first exposure to pornography creeping lower and lower, it is never too early to put protections in place. Be sure to set up:

  • time limits, 
  • privacy features, and 
  • content restrictions. 

It’s important to regularly check in to make sure those settings are working.

Talk to your kids about why those protections are important. You could say things like,

“Just like too much candy is bad for your body, too much time on screens is bad for your brain. I care about you and your brain too much to let you play all day!” 

Teach them what to do when they see inappropriate content, reassure them you are a safe place, and remind them they haven’t done anything wrong if they have been exposed.

The Good Pictures Bad Pictures book series offers a comfortable, age-appropriate script to give your kids a warning, definition, and a plan for when they see pornography.

Related: 5 Essential Screen Time Lessons For Healthy Kids

Filtering 101: Protect Kids From Porn on New Devices

#4 Prioritize in-person, shared experiences

Not many people choose to go to an amusement park by themselves. We like to share the experience with people we care about. We may hold hands for the scary parts, make funny faces together for the cameras, or attempt to out-scream each other. It’s having someone to share it with that makes it the most memorable.

Let’s not miss out on opportunities for summer memories by spending too much time in isolation. Our kids need:

  • eye contact, 
  • healthy physical touch, 
  • and synchronous laughter and movement. 

Let’s get them out of the house and climbing trees, catching bugs, or eating popsicles in the sweltering sun.

As parents, sometimes we are the worst culprits when it comes to spending too much time on our phones. Let’s put them down and be there to run, splash, laugh, apply sunscreen and bug spray, and tell bedtime stories under the stars.

Parents: The most important protective factor

Several years ago, my concerns about my kids, screens, and what they could be exposed to, led me to co-found the nonprofit organization, Project STAND. We empower youth, parents, and school communities to use technology in healthy ways. We believe that because of technology, today’s youth have the power to do more good, or more harm than any previous generation; it all depends on where they stand.

As parents, we are the most important protective factor for our kids. We can help them put their feet on solid ground in defense of healthy tech use. We are perfectly positioned to nurture, guide, and love them through today’s challenging digital world.

Start by making a Summer Bucket List, deciding what role screens will play, checking the safety measures on your devices, and recommitting to prioritize in-person relationships. After all, parenting our kids is the greatest adventure of all!

Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.

A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds

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