It’s summer time! That means school is out and for many families, days are spent enjoying picnics, roasting marshmallows and pushing the boundaries of bedtime. But for some, these long unstructured summer days mean hours on end spent in front of screens, from tablets and video game consoles to computers and smartphones.
In the U.S. nearly every child under eight years old (98%) has access to a mobile device at home, and youth represent one in three internet users worldwide. Hand-held devices and other screens can be beneficial in many ways. For example, Augmentative and Alternative Communication, or AAC, can include tablets or other devices that help individuals who have difficulty speaking to communicate.
When considering screen use and your children, it is important to keep in mind that a healthy balance is key. Although screens and hand-held devices have their advantages and uses, these devices should not be replacing important face-to-face, human interaction and relationships with loved ones.
The summer days may be long, but the time spent creating lifelong memories with our children are short. Unplug and explore the great outdoors! Here are some ways you can help keep children engaged throughout the summer months:
- Consider enrolling children in summer camps: whether these are day camps or overnight camps, the activities and friends made at camp are sure to create lasting memories.
- Attend local fairs, carnivals and events: most cities create calendars that will list such events happening throughout your city or county.
- Start a book club: the library is a great place to patron during the summer. Many libraries hold special kid crafts, meetings and clubs to keep kids engaged. Or you could simply pick out some interesting reads and invite friends and neighbors to meet weekly to discuss the books.
- Hit the pool, beach or splash pads: there’s no better way to cool off and stay active on those hot summer days than by packing a picnic basket and spending the day at a park or beach.
- Weekly game nights: board games can easily gather all members of the family in one place for some fun and friendly competition.
- Go on a road trip or city adventure: no matter how short or long your excursion is, time spent on trips in the car, bus or subway are a great opportunity to communicate and catch up on all the details of each other’s lives. Plus, making stops at museums, the zoo, the park or a new unexplored town can turn into its own adventure.
- Rainy day activities: reserve indoor activities such as visiting a bowling alley, museums or the movie theaters for those rainy summer days.
- Create screen-free zones in your home: when the screens do make the occasional appearance, remember to create areas where devices are not allowed (e.g. the dinner table, bedrooms).
Samah Saidi is an ASHA certified speech-language pathologist from Dearborn, Mich.