How To Make Holiday Parties Safe for Kids: The Ultimate 6-Step Checklist
Holiday gatherings with family and friends make the holiday season fun and festive. But do digital devices crash your parties?
When your loved ones gather together, are the majority focused on their screens? Uncle John is watching football on his phone, little Timmy is immersed in an iPad game, teens are lost in their virtual worlds with earbuds, and someone is on VR.
That doesn’t spell togetherness! At best, people are having individual experiences on their personal screens, and at worst, there’s a risk of kids exploring and sharing explicit content with each other.
Dangers can pop up at holiday gatherings
Digital distraction isn’t the only potential pitfall at family gatherings. More serious dangers such as exposure to pornography and sexual abuse can lurk in the background. Consider one mom’s true story from a gathering at her friend’s house:
“One of the children asked for his mom’s phone. She gave it to him and he went into the back den. Two of my children (ages 3 and 5) followed him.
“I had an uneasy feeling, recalling advice from Defend Young Minds: ‘You wouldn't let your child go play with a gun in a back room alone, don't let them play with a phone or other device unsupervised either.’ I couldn’t shake the feeling, so I excused myself from the adult conversation to go check on them.
“The boy was sitting on a couch and my two kids were sitting next to him trying to see what he was going to show them. Luckily I caught it just in time. I asked the boy, ‘Hey, what are you watching on that?’ He looked up at me nervously as I reached for the phone and took it from his hands.
“I saw that he was on YouTube and had typed in the word sexy in the search. Thankfully, he hadn't hit "search" yet! I took the phone back to his mom in the kitchen, and had a conversation with her later which I think she appreciated.”
Turn gatherings into safe bonding moments
With a little planning, these gatherings can strengthen family bonds, and digital dangers can be kept in check. That’s why this month our Brain and Body Safety Challenge focuses on holiday gatherings.
DYM Brain and Body Safety Challenge:
Customize your checklist for safe family gatherings
We’ve created a checklist to help you safeguard your family gatherings. Use it before you host or go to your next get-together and you’ll be prepared to have a blast without the worries of digital dangers. You can right click and save this checklist to your computer to print your own copy!
1. Promote safety with pre-party conversations
Conversations about safety come first, no matter what else you do to prepare for a family gathering. (It’s a sad fact that most kids know their abusers before the abuse starts. And kids often see porn for the first time when another kid shows it to them.)
Here are some great resources to inform your pre-party conversations.
Talk to your kids about body safety. These resources will get you started:
- 4 Body Safety Rules to Protect Kids Ages 5-10
- 5 Body Safety Rules Every 5-Year-Old Should Know
- How to Protect Kids from Sexual Abuse (DYM Guide)
Arm your kids with your family tech rules and equip them with an internal filter to reject pornography. The following will resources will help you have these discussions:
Discuss digital safety with the party host. For tips on how to have this conversation to mitigate digital dangers, see Tech Safety During the Holidays: 5 Proactive Tips for Family Gatherings.
2. Prepare an entertainment bag
When visiting someone’s house, consider packing an entertainment bag. This bag contains a variety of items to keep your kids engaged without relying on screens.
Pro tip: Consider filling this bag with special items the kids get to play with only when you visit someone else’s home–this will increase the appeal of the entertainment bag!
Some ideas include:
- board games,
- playing cards,
- holiday coloring or activity books,* and
*Search on Amazon for “holiday coloring books” or “holiday puzzles” and you’ll find plenty!
Having several fun activities on hand will ensure that there are plenty of options for everyone to enjoy.
3. Share screen experiences
While it’s important to limit screen time, sometimes it’s the best option for entertainment. In these cases, opt for shared screen experiences that promote togetherness. Here are some ideas.
- Family movie: You can work with the host to select a movie the entire group can enjoy. VidAngel has an extensive library of movies that can be filtered to match your family’s values. This not only fosters unity, but also ensures the content is appropriate for all age groups.
- Just Dance: You can play Just Dance videos from YouTube on your family TV (no gaming console needed) so the whole group can join in the fun. Work with the attendees ahead of time to curate a list of fun dances that they are familiar with.
4. Engage with interactive play
Interactive play is a fantastic way to keep kids engaged without screens. Outdoor games can provide hours of entertainment. Some ideas include:
- capture the flag,
- hide and seek (or flashlight tag after dark),
- catch with balls of various sizes, or
- frisbee games.
Indoors, you can organize:
- scavenger hunts,
- craft projects, or
- DIY science experiments.
Be sure to pack some of these items so that they’re available for the entire group.
5. Throw a dance party
Set up a dance party with your group’s favorite tunes. Get the kids onboard with making a playlist that appeals to everyone. For added fun, consider turning it into a competition with a prize. Bring a Bluetooth speaker and your playlist to get everyone in the groove.
6. Get creative in the kitchen
Getting everyone involved in the kitchen can be a great way to bond. Whether it’s making cupcakes, decorating cookies, or preparing pizza, baking together requires cooperation, creativity, and a delicious end result. This can also be turned into a competition to add an extra element of fun. You can prepare for this by:
- bringing family recipes,
- having competition rules on hand, and
- coming prepared with ingredients.
Now that you’re prepared with a wealth of entertainment options and a solid plan, you’re ready to transform holiday gatherings into cherished moments of togetherness.
Digital distractions won’t destroy the joy of being with your loved ones. Here's to safe, fun, and truly memorable family gatherings!
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"I really like the no-shame approach the author takes. It's so much more than just 'don't watch or look at porn.' It gave my children a real understanding about the brain and its natural response to pornography, how it can affect you if you look at it, and how to be prepared when you do come across it (since, let's face it... it's gonna happen at some point)." -Amazon Review by D.O.