Tips for managing family's summer screen time

Experts say a 'family media plan' can help

Summer time can mean sliding the rules when it comes to screen time.   

But it can be tough for parents to know how much is too much. And what happens when screen time begins to crowd out physical activity or even sleep?

"We've really tried to answer that in a way that will help parents know how to create some balance," said Dr. Jenny Radesky, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at the University of Michigan.  

  • Building a family plan can help set standards children and adults.
  • Parents are encouraged to set the example.
  • Parents also should be talking to children about screen time -- what it is and why it's important to measure.

Radesky researches family digital media use, child social-emotional development and parent-child interaction. She wrote the 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics digital media guidelines for young children.

When it comes to media use, what's right for one family doesn't necessarily work for the next, so the organization created an interactive website where parents can build their family's personalized media plan.

"You can plug in who your children are, what their ages are, and then you get a few choices of what are the different healthier balanced technology-based behaviors that would be appropriate for that age," explained Radesky.

Radesky recommends families pick one or two strategies to try.

"For some families, it might be let's pick a few unplugged spaces in our house or a time of day, like dinnertime," said Radesky.

Radesky also says parents should explain their media use out loud, for example, say "I'm texting Dad to tell him where we should meet."

It demonstrates positive device use.

"They want to know these things. They want to feel in control," said Radesky.

Part of having a family media plan is creating rules for the adults, too. It's probably not surprising that parents with a lot of device use tend to have children who use devices more. Parents with heavy media use also tend to interact less with their kids, which can lead to more family conflicts.

Experts say if parents can eliminate that reflex to grab your phone at every opportunity, it will pay off for the whole family.  

To create your family's personal media plan, click here

For more advice on managing your family's media use, click here