screen free summer

In March of 2023 I was at my wits end with the screens in our household. We had a daily one-hour screen time limit on tablets/video games but it was the first thing my kids wanted to do every morning. They wouldn’t do anything until their screen time was used up and “mom, can I just have 10 more mins?” was a constant refrain in our house. I had had enough. I decided we’d be doing a “screen free summer” that year.

When I first mentioned it to my kids, understandably they had big reactions. “YOU WANT US TO GO ALL SUMMER WITHOUT SCREENS? WE WILL DIIIEEEEEEEE.”

But my mind was made up. We would be going “screen free” for June and July. And then I’d re-evaluate our future relationship with screens after that long detox.

how we did a screen free summer

what screen free summer means for us

Everyone will have their own personal definition of “screen free summer.” For us, it means no tablets, computers or video games. The kids are still allowed to watch TV/Netflix because I find they naturally lose interest in that and I don’t see the same behavioral impacts. When reading this book about the impact of screen time on kids I learned there’s a big difference in the way brains respond to passive screen time like TV versus active screen time like video games.

It felt much easier (for both me and the kids) to take away the tablets/video games, while keeping the TV, for our first attempt at screen free summer- so that’s what we did!

tips for trying a screen free summer

Screen free summer was so much easier than I expected (it was fabulous!) and I immediately knew we would repeat it again. I was shocked at how little complaining the kids did and amazed at the creative ways they found to fill their time. Here are a few things that I think set us up for success.

1. Give lots of warning / plan ahead.

I first told my kids we would have a screen free summer in April. I explained it would start on June 1st and run through July 31st. They had plenty of time to get out their frustrations, wrap up specific milestones within their video games, and mentally prepare for the break.

It wasn’t positioned as a punishment and instead I explained that taking a break from screens is really good for their brains and behavior.

2. Let them be bored.

When I shared with friends that I was doing a screen free summer, several people replied “but isn’t it going to be a ton of work to entertain them?” It wasn’t any extra work. Just let them be bored. They may initially whine about it, but they find the most creative ways to fill their time!

My son pulled cardboard boxes out of our recycling bin and created a cardboard world of his favorite video game. My daughter turned her room into a daycare and started babysitting for other neighbor’s dolls. They pulled art supplies out of the depths of our pantry that I hadn’t seen in years. It was great!

3. Keep the screens out of sight.

This was easier for us, since I didn’t exclude the TV/Netflix during screen free summer, but at the start of June I took all tablets and video games (and their chargers) and hid them away from the kids. They had no visual reminder of their devices.

The communicated time boundaries (June 1 and July 31) were so clear that the kids never even asked for their screens within that window of time. These are the same kids who asked several times a day for more screen time. I was absolutely shocked.

After finishing our the summer, we brought back the devices with adjusted limits. Instead of the daily one hour limit we had always used, we no longer allow the devices at all Monday-Thursday. Friday-Sunday has the traditional one-hour limit. This is working much better for our family.

will we do screen free summer again?

I knew after one week that I’d want to repeat it the following year. We are currently 18 days into this year’s screen free summer (our second one). I kept the same boundaries and it’s been going just as well!

Have you tried a screen free summer with your kids?

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