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Worried that Screens Will Eat Your Summer Vacation?

When we see our kids using screens more than we’d like, it’s easy to jump to conclusions or assume the worst. But these days, kids can use devices for almost everything, so what might look like mindless scrolling or binge-watching could actually be a Youtube video about pollinators, a group chat with their cousins planning to meet up, or designing a roller coaster track using basic physics.

As we put together our plans for summer screentime, let’s remember that not all screentime is created equal.

Connecting with friends and family

Our kids want and need to stay in touch with friends when school is out for the summer. Tech-based communication like Zoom, Google Meet, Facetime, and Whatsapp makes staying in touch with far flung family members easier, too.

Passive use vs. Interactive use

Is your kid interacting and engaging with apps and tools they use – building worlds, playing games, designing characters? Or is it passive – simply scrolling, “liking,” or watching?

Creating vs. Consuming

Is this screen time that encourages creation – editing videos, recording songs, writing a play, drawing a comic? Or are they just consuming other people’s content?

Learning new things

Sometimes passive consumption is educational – TikTok has become a surprisingly educational platform! If your kid is currently fascinated by a specific topic, screen time can be a great educational opportunity. Do check in with them about what they are learning and have them show you the videos and channels they are watching.

Reduce screen use conflict by scheduling “Pro-tech Days”

Our kids are less likely to argue about screen use if they know what to expect.

If they know they’ve got a week of less-restricted screen use coming at the end of the month, they probably won’t spend quite as much time begging to turn on the video game console at the beginning of the month.

So take out the calendar and look at the rest of the summer. Are there any sections of time that really lend themselves to unrestricted or less restricted screen use?

If you’re working from home this summer, is there a week when you’ll need uninterrupted time for a big project? Giving your child more screen time that week will make things much easier for you. Or maybe your family has a show that you love that you’ll miss when you travel and you can plan to watch all your missed episodes the weekend after you get back. Promising not to watch a shared show while your child is in overnight camp will also earn you some goodwill.

Or after a few weeks of outdoor-only, screen-free day camp, your kid may enjoy some less-restricted access to a day of Roblox.

Once you’ve identified some days that make sense, schedule these “Pro-tech Days” and make sure your kid knows when they are. Keeping your kids involved and informed will dramatically cut down on the conflict.

Schedule in “Unplugged Days” too

When you’re consulting your calendar for those “Pro-tech Days,” schedule in some Unplugged Days, too. We can all make these screen-free days more appealing to our kids by planning some truly enjoyable unplugged activities and involving them in that planning process.

Maybe don’t expect your teenage son to spend one of his Unplugged Days staring at impressionist landscape paintings at the museum with you. Unless you know that’s his jam. If you are in Chicago, maybe this cool Nick Cave show at the MCA. would be fun. Or some live music in the park. Or a trip to a beach with the super soakers and some friends.

Alongside your kid, brainstorm ways to spend these Unplugged Days that won’t feel deprivational or boring. 1000 Hours Outside is one of my favorite resources for screen-free ideas.

Download apps that encourage more creative screen time

Counterintuitive as it sounds, we can encourage more creative screen use by downloading more apps. If your kid is mostly using screens for passive consumption, think about their hobbies and interests and try to help them find interactive, creative apps that support those interests.

Apps, games, and software for kids who are interested in music
TuneTrain
GarageBand
Virtual Drumming

Apps, games, and software for kids who are interested in science
Nasa App
Sky View App
Weather App

Apps, games, and software for kids who are interested in art and design
Drawing Pad
Fashion Design Sketches
Skyscraper App

You can also work on taking things in the the other direction–moving from on screen to off. If your tween or teen is watching cooking shows, they can make brunch and snacks! Or dinner every Thursday.

If your kid is watching home organizing TikTok videos (why, oh why won’t my kid watch those?) Encourage them to organize the bathroom. Or pick a project they are excited about. They can always make a stop motion animation or take before and after pictures if that makes it more fun!

“What are the fun summer things we need to make sure we do this year?”

Include kids in the planning process:

In general: plan and be intentional – it’ll take a bit of effort, but it’ll make summer more fun for EVERYONE.

Is there a place you’ve heard about that you want to visit?

Are there friends you want to go camping with?

Do you want to learn a new skill?

 Do you want to try a first sleepover with friends or grandparents without the pressures of the school year?

Can teens with a learner’s permit or a new license help with driving on a family road trip?

Find ways to access “novelty” outside of your phone

Finally, we can look for way to find novely offline. For the last 2.5 years, most of us have found novelty almost exclusively through our screens – new Netflix shows, new phone games, new TikTok accounts to follow. And for many of us, the sense of novelty has kept us going through this long, monotonous pandemic.

But as things open back up and we start to rebalance our lives and venture into the world, we can find novelty in a new playground, a new ice-cream flavor, or a new skill. I just took a rowing class. In a real boat. Rowing is hard. It turns out, there is a LOT of upper body strength involved…starting with carrying the boat down to the river. But it was new and exciting, and even though I am still sore…I also feel rejuvenated by having tried something new. If you try something new this summer, I’d love to hear how it goes.

Photo credit: pexels-jessica-lewis-creative-4200824 

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conflict resolution, mentorship, digital devices, texting, text messaging, social media, kids and technology, kids and social media, tweens and technology, tweens and social media, bullying, social media conflicts, social media conflict resolution

Conflict Resolution for Digital Natives

Kids deal with small conflicts every day - it’s part of growing up. But for today’s “always-on” digital natives, there are additional layers of complexity. Constant connectivity complicates their social sphere. Here’s how you can be a good mentor and teach conflict resolution to your own digital natives.

Read more

Supporting Kids’ Friendships in the Digital Age

I just had a chance to have a conversation with Annie Fox, M.Ed, the host of Family Confidential: Secrets of Successful Parenting. I’ve been a fan of Annie’s parenting expertise and youth mentoring for many years, so I was honored to be invited to be a guest on her podcast.

Highlights: What Makes a Good Friend?

Annie and I spoke about how you can use social media as a locus for talking with your kids about friendships, what makes a good friend and how to deal with conflict and change in relationships.

I shared one of the ways I work with students in my student workshops: helping kids define “what makes a good friend to play online games with, or hang out on social media with?”

And how can parents help their kids be good friends in these interactive spaces?

How can we help our kids have high enough expectations of their peers?

We don’t want our kids to tolerate mean or thoughtless treatment as a matter of course…

Here’s the video (below). Just press the play button to view.
Some of the highlights: Find Clarity Through Boundaries

We talked about how helping your child identify positive boundaries is important.

  • When she has friends over, it is OK to expect the friend to hang out with you and not spend the whole time on the phone!
  • Another important boundary that we can help our kids express to their friends is that they can’t be available 24/7. Kids need to know that they are not being rude if they don’t respond to a status update or text when they are supposed to be sleeping or doing homework.
  • Or, as Annie pointed out, when they are out on their bike and prefer to ignore the buzz in their back pocket.

Digital Citizenship, Helping Kids Define Boundaries

Finally, we discussed the perennial question: How do I know my child is ready for a cellphone.

Hint: It is not a certain birthday… Their skills, responsibility and need for independence (for example to travel around the community on their own) are the most relevant criteria.

It was so much fun talking with Annie. If you are on a roll an want to see all my podcast appearances ever, you can check them out here.

Please let me know your thoughts on these approaches to nurturing our kids social skills or share additional questions you’d like me to cover in a future podcast in the comments.

Text Messages, Texting, Texts, IM, Conflict, Digital Devices, Smartphones

Texting Trouble: When Minor Issues Become Major Problems

Text Messages, Texting, Texts, IM, Conflict, Digital Devices, SmartphonesConflict is difficult, even for adults. But for today’s kids, it’s particularly complex. The interpersonal conflicts that you remember as a child are all still there, but the landscape has changed somewhat. Digital devices in the hands of our kids offer more connectivity (good!), but it comes with many more opportunities for miscommunication.

Tensions between friends can arise from something as minor as an unanswered text message. Kids understand that instant messaging isn’t always instant. In my workshops, kids easily come up with 20 legitimate reasons that someone might not answer a text.

In addition to showering, dinner with family, homework, sleeping and practicing music or a sport, they also mentioned that sometimes they just don’t feel like texting. We need to let kids know that this is OK—that whether you are in 6th grade or a grownup, it can be OK to unplug for any of those reasons, including the last one!

Snapchat, textingDespite acknowledging the things a friend could be doing instead of immediately replying, they still get upset. Their feelings get hurt, and often, their anger escalates the longer it goes unanswered. Sometimes they text again, and again, and again—resulting in a screen that looks like this one.

Group texts, popular with tweens and younger teens, are a mess of challenges. Now the issues are not one-to-one (difficult enough!), but over a network. Within a group dynamic, they feel obligated to participate. But how much? Too much can feel overbearing, not enough can feel aloof. Many kids express reluctance to completely bow out, as they fear their peers will talk about them while they’re not there. There are so many potential land mines!

Your own experiences with navigating relationships can be so helpful to your child. Remember that you have wisdom…and try not to panic when things go wrong in your child’s digital world. Some challenges are inevitable and learning to deal with them is part of growing up in the digital age.

 

So what can you do to help your kids with texting, NOW?

      • Model patience. This is the single best thing that you can offer your child. For instance, when you text your spouse and don’t hear back immediately, pounce on this as a real-life teaching opportunity. Speak aloud, and talk through all the things your spouse could be doing instead of answering your text. Talking to a colleague. On the phone with a client. Driving. Running to catch the bus. Just because you send a text message doesn’t mean that the recipient needs to drop everything to respond!

      • Avoid emotional issues. Text messaging is a great way to stay in touch and feel connected to your peers. It’s great for quick exchanges, planning, and meeting up. In other words, functional and practical uses. Emotional issues, on the other hand, don’t translate well in text messages or social media. They are too complex for such a simple medium. Teach your kids to stick to the functional aspects. That doesn’t mean that you can’t show support for a friend with a well-timed smiley emoticon, but talk with your kids about different situations so they can get a feel for what’s appropriate and what’s not.

      • Express boundaries. Help your child: 1) set some rules on her own; and 2) construct some simple language for expressing a clear boundary to peers. For example, “I don’t group text” or “I can’t respond to texts after 9 pm.” Not only does this teach them about boundaries (useful in general too!), but it also helps them feel less worried about how they will perceived if they don’t respond right away. Their need for inclusion makes it very difficult for them to come up with this on their own, so it’s a great opportunity for you to help.

      • Take it offline. When kids have a conflict, they need skills to mend fences in person. A sense of urgency can take over when trying to resolve a dispute. It can escalate quickly. Exercise restraint, be patient, and resolve the issue in a face-to-face discussion. The phone can work, too—but it’s extremely difficult to successfully resolve an argument via text message. Teach your kids to defer with a simple message, such as, “Texting might not be the best way to discuss this—can we talk F2F?”

      • Invent your own solutions. I love doing this exercise with kids. Pose a question to them—what would you invent to fix this? One group of kids I worked with invented an app to deal with the challenges of group texts. They offered a way to “step out” temporarily (to do homework or take a shower) without coming back to 900 texts. They also offered a feature for getting out completely, and a reminder about who is participating (since you only see phone numbers for non-contacts) so they would know not to talk about those individuals. Really clever stuff, and it’s such a great exercise to make them cognizant of the pitfalls of texting.

Texting can be fun and fulfilling if your child understands how to use it correctly. It can be an important part of their social sphere, so it’s worth investing the time to help them learn the unwritten rules. I hope that these suggestions help you!

Help Me Get Ready For My Child’s First Cell Phone

When you put all these together, it’s easy to see why this is such a source of stress for families. Do you wish there was a course on this? After years of research and talking with families, I’ve  created:

Phonewise Boot Camp for parents to help parents get ready for this milestone.

This course will cover:

    • Planning and organizing your physical space at home to maximize positive outcomes
    • Common digital citizenship challenges for new cellphone/smartphone users
    • What social skills kids need to be successful with their phones and more.
    • Planning for boundaries around when your child will have access to the device

 

Sign Me Up!

 

 Getting Your Child a Phone? Are you ready? Are they ready? Join my Phonewise Boot Camp for Parents to get ready to support them through this important transition. Would you like informative posts like this in your inbox? Sign up here.

 

Photo Credit: Top Photo is by Daniela Reinsch