People share their summertime screen rules

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While parents are generally quite comfortable about talking about the problems digital devices pose in their homes, they are often hesitant to share their screen time rules. In fact, I was once such a parent. Worried that people would judge me by my rules, I would favor keeping my mouth shut.

It makes perfect sense that we parents have insecurities about sharing our rules; divulging to others what we are doing, or trying to do, often wakes up our inner critic—like it did to me. The critic says things like “I bet she is thinking I am a control freak,” or, “I am sure he thinks I am such a loser because I don’t have any rules around _____ (fill in the blank).”

But what I have learned is how incredibly helpful it is—for the sake of our children and teens—that we speak up and share the solutions we are trying. There are no chapters in What to Expect When You're Expecting on how to parent during a technology revolution. We need each other.

So now it’s time to ask your inner critic to go on vacation and challenge yourself to be more open with others about the rules you are trying in your home this summer. I am so grateful to the people below who shared their summertime rules with us at Screenagers over the past few weeks.

Let me first start with what rules are in place this summer for Tessa, our 16-year-old daughter. She came up with these last week as she just got home from camp after being unplugged for a couple of weeks. She started the conversation by sharing some goals she had for the rest of summer. Then, she said her plans/rules are to watch no more than 4 hours a week of TV-type shows and spend just an hour a day on social media. (We also have other family rules about tech that you can see in an earlier post). In an upcoming TTT, I will cover how she will be accountable for those goals because the topic of enforcing limits deserves a full blog post.

Here are other people’s rules for the summer:

  1. Catherine M. — For my 8-year old girl, Mon to Fri no screens before 4 pm.

  2. Lynette H. — For our 15 yr old we have been having him take a break from video games so far this summer. He plays chess on the computer most days for a short time.

  3. Kristina C. — Complete a learning worksheet and a chore before any screen time. Total screen time on a typical day is 60 minutes, they get more screen time if a friend is over but it has to be 2 player games. My kids are 14 & 12.

  4. Shari H. — All year, 30 minutes a day. No devices upstairs. Sometimes we give a little more if specific occasion. My kids are 13 & 9.

  5. Malissa W. — Our house rule for our 12 yo twin boys and 11 yo girl is 10,000 steps before any video games.  It has really empowered our kids to make choices for themselves—they can choose how they get their steps and at what rate. This has eliminated the constant questioning, "can I play video games".

  6. Christina R. — Have to do an hour of reading and math before any screen time. Ages 8, 11 and 13.  Honestly, there are so many better things to do, we don’t have much of a problem. Piano practice, lacrosse, swimming, reading books, caring for animals.

  7. Lori G. — My teens visit grandparents who have no wifi. They spent 1 month with them and so relaxing! When they are home our rules are they have to read, exercise, chores & time outdoors before any screen time.

  8. Cathy M.— No screens at all Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Two hours on the other days of the week. Watching a movie with family doesn’t “count” but can only be done on the screen days. Three boys, 13, 11, and 5, and they really need things spelled out and clear. Also on our no screen days, my oldest is allowed to have his phone on - but notifications turned on for text and calls only and he can answer to make plans. I also restrict myself more on those days.

  9. Gail G. — For our 14-year old boy, our rule is Friday, Saturday, Sunday 1-2 hours each day. He has a phone that has restrictions but he still stares at it and reads up on all his tech emails.

  10. Michelle M. — No personal devices for our 4 sons. Ages 6-16. Allowing 20-30 min per day (after chore/activity list and instrument practice completed), Saturday they get an hour, Sundays nothing - all year long. When we have activities during the day preventing play time we drop it (don’t play).

  11. Sarahjane H. — No screen TIME from 11am-5pm. Kids can text friends but that’s all. Ages 14 & 16.

  12. Annie K. —  For our 10-year-old she must ask before turning on any screen. Digital devices are locked and can be unlocked if she has read for a half hour, practiced her instrument, and completed two chores from a list. She can have up to 2 hours of screen time.

  13. Lisa F. — Four kids, 6, 8, 11, 13, summer is challenging because we both work and try to send them to camps as much as possible, but it gets expensive. The days they go to my in-laws she does not limit screens, which bothers me, but she is homebound with her husband, so I don't know what to do. But when they are here, they have to get dressed, make bed, etc. I will turn off the house Wi-fi if needed. I do make sure they are still doing karate classes or playing outside two hours in the evening. We also get library books weekly.

  14. Shiri M. — My kids are 11 & 14. 1 hr of small screen time per day (phone, iPad, laptop). They can have 1 show on TV in addition on some days (determined by us). No screens in private. They can self-monitor. I check battery life each morning, if they’re over ‘significantly’ (determined by us), I monitor them. If they’re disrespectful they lose all screens until they show 3 consistent days of respect and kindness.

  15. Jen F. — No screens except an hour of good old television each afternoon/evening. My kids are little, two girls, 6 & 9.

For this week’s TTT, here are some conversation starters:

  • Do you think the amount of time you are spending on screens this summer is just right? Too much? Not enough?
  • Share with your kids this list of other people’s rules and see if they like any of them.
  • Since it is just over halfway through summer, are there any of your rules that need adjusting? Creating? Eliminating?
  • Share with your family any summer rule/goal, you as an adult have implemented or are considering for yourself. ** Remember rules/goals don’t just have to be about the amount of time but can be about the quality of time.