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Tips to Help You Manage Your Child or Teen’s Screen Time During Summer

With more free time during the summer, managing screen time can be a challenge for parents of neurodiverse children. Balancing screen time with other activities is essential to ensure a healthy and enjoyable summer. This post provides tips and strategies for setting limits and promoting a well-rounded routine for your child.

Setting Limits

  • Create a Schedule: Allocate specific times for screen use each day. Consistency is key, so try to stick to the schedule as much as possible. For example, you might allow screen time in the morning after breakfast and again in the late afternoon before dinner. Check out our post on summer schedules here.
  • Use Timers: Utilize timers to help your child transition away from screens. Set a timer to signal the end of screen time, and provide a five-minute warning to help your child prepare for the transition. Using a visual timer can be especially helpful for younger children or those with difficulty understanding time.
  • Establish Rules: Clearly communicate screen time rules to your child. For example, no screens during meals, before bedtime, or during family activities. Consistently enforce these rules to help your child understand and respect the boundaries.
  • Screen-Free Zones: Designate certain areas of your home as screen-free zones, such as the dining room, bedrooms, and outdoor spaces. This can help create a healthier balance and encourage engagement in other activities.

Alternative Activities

  • Outdoor Play: Encourage outdoor activities like biking, hiking, and sports. Physical activity is crucial for overall health and can help reduce the need for screen time. Plan family outings to parks, nature reserves, or local attractions to make outdoor play more exciting. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids ages 6+ need at least 60 minutes of active play a day, so getting this in is critical over the summer!
  • Creative Projects: Engage your child in art, music, and other creative projects. Provide a variety of materials and tools, such as paints, clay, musical instruments, and craft supplies. Encourage your child to explore different forms of creative expression and share their creations with the family.
  • Reading and Storytelling: Promote reading and storytelling as a screen-free alternative. Create a cozy reading nook with a selection of books that match your child’s interests and reading level. Take turns reading aloud, or make up stories together to foster imagination and language skills.
  • Board Games and Puzzles: Introduce board games, puzzles, and other hands-on activities that can be enjoyed without screens. Choose games that are appropriate for your child’s age and abilities, and set aside regular family game nights to enjoy them together.

Educational Screen Time

  • Educational Apps and Programs: Choose apps and programs that are both fun and educational. Look for content that aligns with your child’s interests and learning goals. Educational screen time can be a valuable tool for reinforcing academic skills and promoting curiosity. We love these recommended apps from Reading Rockets.
  • Interactive Learning: Encourage interactive learning experiences, such as virtual museum tours, science experiments, or coding tutorials. These activities can provide a more engaging and hands-on approach to learning compared to passive screen use.
  • Balance and Variety: Aim for a balance between educational and recreational screen time. Monitor the content your child is consuming and ensure it is age-appropriate and aligns with your family’s values.

Parental Involvement

  • Co-Watching: Watch shows and play games with your child to monitor content and engage with them. Discuss the themes, characters, and lessons from the content, and use it as an opportunity to connect and share experiences.
  • Set a Good Example: Model healthy screen habits yourself. Show your child that you also limit your screen time and engage in a variety of activities. Your behavior sets a powerful example for your child to follow.
  • Family Activities: Plan regular screen-free family activities, such as cooking together, playing sports, or going on day trips. These shared experiences can strengthen family bonds and provide alternative ways to spend time together.
  • Digital Literacy: Teach your child about digital literacy and online safety. Help them understand the importance of balanced screen use, privacy, and responsible online behavior.

Balancing screen time with other activities can help your neurodiverse child have a well-rounded summer. By setting clear limits, providing engaging alternatives, and involving yourself in their screen time, you can ensure a healthy balance that supports their development. Remember to be flexible and adjust your approach as needed to best support your child’s unique needs.

Learning Evaluation Center

The LEC opened in 2016 to provide high-quality, multidisciplinary evaluations for children ages 4 through 21 living in the greater Denver community.

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