Now that summer is here, are you a little afraid your child will be spending too much time staring at a screen? Whether it’s a teen girl on social media or a son hooked on video games, it’s important to set boundaries on screen time. Living in a phone bubble instead of soaking in the sunshine isn’t just unhealthy for a child’s growing body. It can be very unhealthy for their spirit.
Researchers are finding more and more evidence that social media and video games are addictive in nature. If you doubt that, just try taking away devices for a week, or even just a day from your child. Social media can be an oxymoron like “jumbo shrimp.”
Social media isn’t very social. Your child may be looking at various photos, videos, or comments, but that is no substitute for face-to-face communication.
If your child uses social media, teach them to use it for connecting to a handful of friends rather than scrolling through news feeds to check in on the masses.
My son Ethan is going into high school and my daughter Noelle is going into middle school. Neither of them have social media accounts. I am not saying you have to do it my way. But I do want to give you a comeback when your child says, “Mom, I’m the only one who doesn’t have Snapchat (or whatever they are asking for).” You can reply, “No, there are kids named Ethan and Noelle in San Diego who don’t have it either!” I have a feeling you could find some local examples who are limiting social media too.
Instead of having a screen-focused summer, opt for learning new skills and having fun. Summertime is a great time to pick up a new sport or instrument, bake cookies, build forts, throw around a football, and head to the library.
Here are a few screen-free fun ideas to try with your kids:
Backyard camping – You can set up a tent in your backyard and camp in the comfort of your own home with full access to a bathroom! Eat hot dogs and s’mores, tell stories late into the night, and fall asleep under the stars.
Home café – Have your children set the table and create their own atmosphere for a home café. If your kids are old enough, have them choose a recipe and totally be in charge of the meal from start to finish. Parents can do the dishes. Let your kids make menus and act out the parts of hostess and server.
Family bike ride – You can ride around your neighborhood in the cool of the evening, or load up the bikes for a favorite trail or a new one. We recently joined my cousin’s family for 6 miles of mountain biking around a lake. It was just the right amount of challenge for me (yes, I did wipe out but thankfully it was nothing serious!).
Google things to do in your town – Search for the top 10 things to do in your hometown or perhaps within 2 hours of your home. Chances are, there are many things on the list that you’ve never done before. Why not act like a tourist for a day or two? No need to spend money on travel when you’re having new adventures in or near your hometown.
Praying around the table – I tried something new with my girls Noelle (age 11) and Lucy (age 8). We knelt around our coffee table and prayed through the Moms in Prayer 4 steps of prayer. I asked the girls to think of a friend to intercede for. We just took 10 minutes to do this. That time of prayer left a sweetness in our hearts for the rest of the day. When you gather as a family to pray for each other and friends, you will be connected to God and each other in a very special way.
I was very impressed with how responsive the girls were during this prayer time. It just goes to show girls are eager to pray. I’m so glad Moms in Prayer is launching the brand new Girls in Prayer Program with activities and teaching geared for girls ages 6-17. And it’s all free!
Remember the best summer memories aren’t made staring at a screen. So have your kids put their phones and iPads away today, and make plans for family fun tomorrow that truly connects!
Arlene Pellicane is a mom of three, wife, speaker and author of several books including Parents Rising: 8 Strategies for Raising Kids Who Love God, Respect Authority and Value What’s Right. She is also the co-author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World (with Dr. Gary Chapman). Arlene lives in San Diego with her husband James and their three children. To learn more, visit www.ArlenePellicane.com