Summer break is almost here! While some southern U.S. school systems have already begun their summer vacation, those further north still have a few weeks to go. At any rate, theyíll all be out within the next month, and itís time to start thinking about what your kids will be doing this summer. While most parents put restrictions on the kinds and amount of TV their kids can watch during the school year, those rules tend to slack off during the summer months. Why? Parents tend to loosen rules across the board during summer, and kids have much more free time on their hands. Even if they go to camp all day, thereís usually no homework or studying to be completed at night- leaving them with hours of unaccounted for time. This is when excessive TV watching creeps in.
Whatís a parent to do? For starters, some experts suggest not changing the TV viewing rules at all. Not only does that create a consistent expectation, it makes it easier to transition back to school in the fall. On the other hand, thatís a lot of time that you, as a parent, will have to have activities readily available for the child who cannot entertain themselves. There are many games and activities for younger kids that require little to no preparation, making them good choices for parents with preschool or young school aged kids. Older kids should be able to ward off boredom on their own- reading, drawing, and playing outside are great choices.
For those parents who donít mind bending the rules for summer, experts suggest increasing the time in moderation. Allowing a child an extra 30- 60 minutes of screen time is reasonable, depending on the childís age. Allowing them unlimited screen time because itís summer is not. Most kids lost part of what they learned over the summer; the passive nature of TV viewing accelerates this decline. If you choose to let kids watch a little more TV, set reasonable limits.
Lastly, if you do decide to change your childís summer viewing habits, or if youíve been lax in the past and have decided to keep the school year rules in place, talk with your kids ahead of time so theyíll know what to expect. Springing it on them the first day of summer break is a bad idea, and one bound to be fraught with tears or tantrums. Give them a chance to prepare for whatís to come. If youíre relaxing the rules, make sure that you stress that itís temporary, and insist of a certain amount of physical activity each day.
With a little advance planning and preparation, summertime can be fun and include enjoyable screen time without derailing the educational gains made during the year.