The holidays are a wonderful time of year that provides children with a much needed break from academic work, as well as with opportunities to spend more time with family and friends. More time at home during the holidays also often means more screen time for children and adults alike. While most students do not have homework, many adults have a shorter holiday break and/or have the extra “homework” of shopping, cooking, wrapping presents and hosting guests. All of this makes for moments during which students are left to their own “devices” to entertain themselves.
Using screens for entertainment can be an easy way to have fun, but it’s important for parents to set boundaries. Read on for tips for managing extra time on technology over the holidays.
Making Your Child(ren) Part of the Discussion
Start discussing with your children that limits may adjust during this break from school and then begin to brainstorm solutions, allowing the student to feel ownership over the decisions that are made. The older your child is, the more input they may be able to give in what seems like a fair and appropriate amount of screen time. Do your best to stick to the limits, but be forgiving if every day is not a success. Make time for face-to-face interactions with family as well. Common Sense Media is a helpful resource for all things screen related and has a specific page called “What Parents Need to Know.” Specifically, you can find screen time suggestions here.
Movies and TV Specials
Holiday movies are great, and there are so many new titles in addition to the classics! Make sure to check the ratings and suggested audiences before viewing. You can also set parental restrictions on streaming services ahead of time to ensure that suggested content is appropriate. When possible, watch the movies together! Time spent together can open up communication and just help families enjoy their down time as a group.
Holidays are also a time when children may be gifted devices. This is a crucial time to think through your parental expectations and communicate those guidelines from day one. Your parental role cannot be replaced by parental controls, but they are helpful in addition to adult monitoring. Again, consistency with rules and modeling healthy tech habits yourself will be key in helping your child develop successful, healthy tech habits.
Creation versus Consumption
When your children are using screens, encourage time spent on creating content and not just consuming content. The app store offers plenty of options for all interests and ages. Common Sense Media also has a handy guide for finding apps that promote creativity. You can even combine screen-free activities with some apps. For instance, Quiver Vision can bring color pages to life!
Harmless or Harmful
Talk with your children about the apps they are using or want to use. Why are they interested in these? What makes that fun to watch or play? Ask them to show you, and then do some investigating of your own to find out more about that app. Some may seem harmless to you and your child but they can actually open up your child’s viewing to information you are not comfortable with.
The Bottom Line:
Acknowledge that the holiday break presents more unstructured time and brainstorm expectations with your children related to tech use.
Be prepared with expectations and rules for new tech gifts to implement from day one.
Remember that parental controls are not equitable to parental supervision.
Encourage tech use that inspires creativity and activities that involve the entire family.
Resources for further reading:
This post was written by Tamara Claverie, Director of Counseling and Wellness, and Allie Segura, Associate Director of Technology.
- Counseling and Wellness
- Early Childhood
- Lower School
- Middle School
- Screen Time