Summer break! It’s a time for sunshine, playdates, and endless possibilities for fun. For many parents, however, it also means a whole lot more screen time for their kids. Those tablets, phones, and TVs have a uniquely enticing siren song that can draw kids away from the real world. But that doesn’t mean screen time has to take over.

This guide is about helping you find a healthy balance between screen time and the countless other activities that summer has to offer. With the right mix of activities, your kids will be less concerned about their internet connection than about the real connections that the world has to offer. So let’s get started on a journey towards a summer filled with both digital fun and real-world adventures.

6 Tips for Managing Summer Screen Time

1. Set clear and consistent limits for screen time.

Start by talking to your kids about daily time limits for using their devices. It can be helpful to break it down into chunks, like 30 minutes after breakfast, an hour after lunch, etc. Make sure these limits are in line with the age-appropriate screen time guidance that doctors and scientists recommend. It’s advisable to give young children shorter blocks of time, especially since most researchers recommend much less overall screen time for the youngest kids.

Consistency is key, so try your best to stick to the agreed-upon summer screen time rules every day, even on weekends and holidays. This helps children understand expectations and reduces arguments. That said, some flexibility can be called for on special occasions like movie nights or virtual playdates, but try not to let the exceptions turn into the norm.

2. Create a balanced schedule with plenty of fun offline activities.

The other side of the equation is finding offline fun that your kids will happily ditch the screen for. Summer is the perfect time to explore new hobbies, play outdoors, and connect with people in your community. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Get active! Fresh air and exercise are a great way to burn off energy and reduce screen time cravings, so try hikes, bike riding, or trips to the pool.
  • Embrace the arts! Sign your kids up for art classes, encourage them to write stories, or put on a backyard play. Artistic expression is a rewarding activity that kids can do with minimal screens.
  • Spark their curiosity! Visit museums, historical sites, or zoos. When kids are engaged with something they find interesting, it’s amazing how they can forget about digital devices.

3. Use screen time management tools.

Ironically, the digital age has also brought a plethora of tools to help manage screen time. Parental control apps and features on devices can be a big help for setting time limits, blocking certain apps or websites during specific hours, and monitoring your child’s online activity. Some are installed on devices, while others may be available through your router, automatically shutting off Wi-Fi service on kids’ devices after a certain time.

Don’t be afraid to get your kids involved in choosing and setting up these tools. Talk to them about why you’re using them and how they can help create a healthier balance between online and offline fun. This teamwork approach empowers your kids and encourages them to take charge of their own screen time habits.

4. Set a good example with your own summer screen time habits.

If you’re constantly glued to your phone during family time, chances are your kids will want to do the same.  Show them that there’s a world beyond screens by putting your devices away during meals, outings, and quality time together. Prioritize activities that bring real engagement and togetherness like playing games, doing home projects, or just talking and enjoying each other’s company.

Remember, you’re the main role model for your kids, and your actions speak louder than words. When your kids see you prioritizing real-life connections and activities over screen time, they’re more likely to follow suit. By establishing healthy screen time habits for yourself, you’re setting a good example while protecting your own peace and well-being.

5. Plan family outings and outdoor activities.

Summer is the perfect time to explore the world beyond the screen, so get creative and make it a fun family challenge to discover new places and activities together. There’s an almost unlimited variety of ways to enjoy the outdoors as a family, but here are some perennial favorites:

  • Start a garden together and watch your plants grow.
  • Go camping in the backyard or at a nearby campground.
  • Have a water balloon fight or set up a sprinkler on a hot day.
  • Go for a nature walk and see how many different plants and animals you can identify.
  • Have a picnic in the park.
  • Organize a scavenger hunt through your neighborhood.

 6. Organize playdates and social activities.

Getting your kids into the presence of other children is a tried-and-true way to break them out of the screen spell. When kids are around each other, creativity and fun can transpire organically, and lifelong friendships can form. What’s more, getting together with other parents is good for your own social life and helps build the strong support network that’s so crucial for raising well-adjusted kids.

Social activities can take many forms, from organized sports to free-form park hangouts. Consider enrolling your child in summer camps or classes that align with their interests, such as sports, music, art, or theater. The key is to find activities that your child enjoys organically, and that encourage interaction with other children in a fun and supportive environment.

Managing screen time is an ongoing process where patient communication is key. The tips we’ve talked about here will help children develop a healthy relationship with technology and enjoy a summer filled with both digital and real-world adventures.